A good job description can provide applicants with an accurate reflection of the work they are expected to perform and recruiters and interviewers with a guide to how each candidate should be evaluated. Traditionally, job descriptions used skills, duties, and responsibilities to define the job; however, today things are changing. As companies downsize, upsize, or rightsize, they are placing more emphasis on the worker, not just the work. It is more important than ever to have a flexible and multi-skilled workforce. No longer can employers depend solely on an employee’s skill level, but must also consider what characteristics and strengths they possess that can bring more value to the company.
Skills vs. Competencies….What’s the Difference?
So, what is the difference between skills and competencies? Well, let’s look at communication as an example. A person can become a good presenter through practice, learning from others, and education but in order to be a strong communicator one must rely on a combination of skillsPLUS behavior and knowledge. A person can learn how to be a good presenter but only a strong communicator has advanced language skills, the knowledge of diverse cultures, and behaves patiently when communicating. In short, skills are specific learned activities like mopping the floor, using a computer, and stocking merchandise, while competencies are skills + knowledge + behavior like problem solving, communication, or professionalism.
Why Aren’t More Companies Competency Based?
First off, it can be time consuming. Skills are tangible and much easier to define while competencies are often broad and up for multiple interpretations. Also, we’re just not used to it. Many job postings, speak often to the skills and experience needed for the job and not the bigger picture of what a candidate can bring to the company. It goes back workers of today having to wear multiple hats, with a variety of responsibilities. Lastly, we often think of competencies for performance reviews, not job descriptions. Instead of waiting until for performance appraisals, why not pull them to the front of your recruitment and training efforts so that the best candidate can be determined.
It must be said that skills are still a very important part of a job description and can give managers, employees, and candidates a good idea of what is expected of them on a daily basis. But companies need to consider the numerous benefits of competency-based job descriptions. Competencies give employees and candidates a clearer picture of performance expectations and what they need to succeed in the job. They also give you a more efficient way to evaluate job applicants and decrease the chance you’ll hire the wrong person for the job. Regardless of what model you ultimately choose for your job descriptions, it is important to note there is a difference between skills and competencies and a better understanding of the difference may lead to a clearer, more defined job description.