Why Use Competencies

Here are a few reasons why competencies are beneficial for employers;

  1. screen prospective employees during the hiring process, which results in better hiring decisions
  2. discuss with employees their strengths, areas for growth, training, and developmental activities
  3. distribute work more efficiently by using the knowledge of employees’ proficiency levels.
  4. acquire training and development opportunities systematically and efficiently, e.g., develop training partnerships between organizations, bringing tailored training to employees, etc.
  5. determine what type of skill sets are needed in the future, which helps support succession planning.

McClelland’s (1973) research suggests that knowledge and academic ability tests alone do not predict high job performance or success in a person, and that one’s individual competencies and characteristics can identify a high performer. He mentions using competencies to find high performers and exceptional employees has slowly become well known in human resource management. The characteristics that set employees apart provide a starting point for recruitment, selection, and development strategies that are successful and give a good return on investment (McClelland, 1973). Bright et al, (2006) and Brownell and Goldsmith, (2006)  agree as they have found that many competency-based approaches are used in a range of human resource practices and how important they are to a business, some of the practices include recruitment and selection, training and performance management (Bright et al., 2002; Brownell & Goldsmith, 2006).


As business environments are rapidly changing and organizations are finding the importance of a workforce that is not just highly skilled and technically skilled, but more significantly, a workforce that can learn fast, build interpersonal relationships adapt to changes, and effectively communicate. Human resource professionals have found that competencies are a crucial part of an organizations survival, productivity and ongoing improvement (Bright et al.,  2002). Hanks, Hayton, Jo Blahna, Meevoy, Mumford, and Warnick (2005) have the same opinion as they mention that human resource management professionals are starting to focus on the development of competencies that are essential for effective performance in professional job roles (Hankset al., (2005).

In saying this Brownell and Goldsmith (2006) state” Human resource professionals are best positioned to apply competency-based approaches to create healthy, high-performing organizations and to ensure that the personal characteristics essential to effective global leadership, including character, are identified, elicited, and assessed” (Brownell & Goldsmith, 2006, p.329). Organizations using competencies through competency-based programs have recognized that they are helping to prepare and create the next generation of leaders which is highly important to human resource professionals and their organizations. Competency-based organizations using competency models provide flexible approaches to human resource activities and as a result they are more flexible and customer focused  than a traditional job based organization (Brownell & Goldsmith, 2006; Edward & Lawler, 1994; Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004).