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Competency Frameworks 101

A [competency] framework is a ‘frame that works’ to put those [competencies] into practice”

– Paul Hughes

Whether it’s organizational values or key performance indicators (KPIs), competency frameworks are growing in their popularity and application. More and more time is being invested in establishing a common understanding of the qualities and skills needed for success, and everything from businesses to post-secondary institutions, sports teams, and summer camps are hopping on the bandwagon. But what is a competency framework? And why use one? In this blog we’ll answer some of the common questions SIGMA receives about competency frameworks, and explain how you can use these tools to make the most out of your team.

What is a competency?

A competency is a characteristic, skill, attitude, or behavior which when present, enhances job performance. Competencies can reflect what an employee does, feels, and knows about the job. A leadership competency then, is a competency that enhances leadership performance.

What is a competency framework?

A competency framework is a collection of competencies identified as necessary for success in a given position or, more broadly, in an organization. Organizations typically work from a larger competency library to develop and refine the competency framework relevant for each department or role in their organization. Leadership competency frameworks are built specifically around managerial, executive, or other leadership-type roles.

Universal vs. Local Competency Frameworks

Competency frameworks may be universal or local.

Universal Competency Frameworks

Universal competency frameworks are applied across an entire organization. They outline the leadership competencies that are required to succeed in that particular industry or context and are valued across the entire company.

Local Competency Frameworks

Local frameworks or a functional competency model, on the other hand, are more specific for certain departments or positions. For example, a pharmaceutical company may have a universal competency framework they use to select and develop all employees in their organization, but they may also have more specific and differentiated frameworks for research and development teams, sales representatives, or management teams.

Why use a competency framework?

Having a framework for leadership competencies is beneficial for a variety of reasons.

1. It establishes a shared understanding of the skills, abilities, and knowledge needed to be effective

This can be important for organizations as a whole (i.e. agreeing upon behaviors and values that align with the organizational culture), as well as for particular departments, teams, or positions. Having a competency framework ensures that leaders, incumbents, and even applicants are all on the same page, and understand what is required to succeed in the context in which they work.

2. It enhances organizational communication & collective effectiveness

Using a competency framework creates a common language for discussing performance and success, which can enhance organizational communication and collective effectiveness. Standardizing nomenclature prevents people from using multiple words for the same task or behavior, and allows for more systematic definition, evaluation, and development of skills. It also prevents miscommunication, which can help teams work better together and improve organizational efficiency at large.

3. It’s Beneficial for Guiding Leadership Development & Succession Planning.

Competency frameworks provide structure to systems related to selection and performance management, and using a common framework not only makes these processes more efficient, they can easily be scaled across an organization and be used to scaffold a strong leadership pipeline.

Start Developing Your Organization’s Competency Framework with SIGMA

If you’re interested in implementing a competency framework at your organization, SIGMA is here to help! We’ve developed a ready-made leadership competency framework that can be applied in organizations across all industries. This framework will help you identify and develop leadership talent, as well as measure performance along the way. If you’re interested in learning more about competency frameworks, contact us today. We’re always happy to speak with you about what SIGMA has to offer, how SIGMA’s competency framework can be mapped onto your own, or any other questions, concerns, or ideas you may have.

About the Author

Helen Schroeder

Marketing Coordinator

Helen completed a dual degree with Ivey Business School’s HBA program and Western University’s Honours Specialization in Psychology. As a Marketing Coordinator and Consultant she creates and manages content for SIGMA’s webpages, blogs, and coaching resources. Helen also assists in new product development, go-to-market strategy, and client consultation.