What are they and how do they affect performance?
The terms competence and competency are diffuse terms used liberally in
organizations and in academic literature. Although the concept is well-
developed, it seems that there is little agreement on what is meant by the
terms and even less agreement on how they affect performce.
Dr. John Kenworthy
John Kenworthy 2008
COMPETENCE AND COMPETENCY
The concept of competence remains one of the most diffuse terms in the organisational and occupational literature (Nordhaug
and Gronhaug, 1994). Exactly what does an author mean when using any of the terms of competence?
The concept of individual competence is widely used in human resource management (Boyatzis, 1982, Schroder, 1989,
Burgoyne, 1993). This refers to a set of skills that an individual must possess in order to be capable of satisfactorily performing a
specified job. Although the concept is well developed, there is continuing debate about its precise meaning.
Others take a job-based competence view that according to Robotham and Jubb (1996) can be applied to any type of business
where the competence-based system is based on identifying a list of key activities (McAuley, 1994) and behaviours identified
through observing managers in the course of doing their job.
A useful view is to look at competence to mean a skill and the standard of performance, whilst competency refers to behaviour
by which it is achieved (Rowe, 1995). That is, competence describes what people do and competency describes how people do
Rowe (1995, p16) further distinguishes the attributes an individual exhibits as “morally based” behaviours – these are important
drivers of behaviours but especially difficult to measure – and “intellectually based” behaviours as capabilities or competencies.
Capabilities are distinguished as these refer to development behaviours – i.e. are graded to note development areas to improve
behaviours in how people undertake particular tasks.