Competency Frameworks 101

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

Paul Hughes, professional keynote speaker

Whether it’s organizational values or key performance indicators (KPIs), competency frameworks are growing in popularity and their 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 finding value in competency frameworks. 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 use a comprehensive competency library to develop and refine competency frameworks tailored to each department or role. Leadership competency frameworks are specifically designed for managerial, executive, or other leadership roles.

Universal vs. Local Competency Frameworks

Competency frameworks can be categorized as either universal or local, each serving distinct purposes within an organization.

Universal Competency Frameworks

Universal competency frameworks are designed to be applied across an entire organization. They identify the leadership competencies essential for success in the industry or organizational context as a whole. By implementing a universal framework, organizations ensure that all employees, regardless of their specific roles, are aligned with the overarching competencies valued by the organization. This approach promotes a consistent standard of leadership and performance throughout.

Local Competency Frameworks

Local competency frameworks, also known as functional competency models, are tailored to specific departments or positions. These frameworks address the unique competencies required for particular functions or roles within an organization. For example, a pharmaceutical company may utilize a universal competency framework for overall employee selection and development, while simultaneously employing specialized frameworks for their research and development teams, sales representatives, and management teams. This allows for a more nuanced and targeted approach to competency development and performance management..

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 is important for organizations as a whole, as it involves agreeing upon behaviors and values that align with the organizational culture, as well as for specific departments, teams, or positions. Having a competency framework ensures that leaders, incumbents, and applicants have a shared understanding for what is required to succeed in their respective contexts.

2. It enhances organizational communication and 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 a more systematic definition, evaluation, and development of skills. It also prevents miscommunication, helping teams work better together and improving overall organizational efficiency.

3. It’s beneficial for guiding leadership development and succession planning

Competency frameworks provide structure to systems related to selection and performance management. Using a common framework not only makes these processes more efficient, but also allows them to be easily scaled across an organization and used to build 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 can 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. If you’re interested in learning more about competency frameworks, contact us today. We’re always happy to speak with you about leadership competencies and 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.