What’s the Difference Between Skills and Competencies?

What’s the Difference Between Skills and Competencies?

While “skills” and “competencies” sound very similar, they hold distinctly different meanings. And when it comes to professional training or higher education development, it’s crucial to understand the nuances and differences between the two. In this blog, we’ll explore the definitions, distinctions, and practical applications of skills and competencies, shedding light on their critical roles in the journey of growth and success for learners.

What are skills?

Skills are specific abilities or actions that individuals possess. These abilities can be categorized into two main groups: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills

Often referred to as technical skills, hard skills are tangible and quantifiable abilities that are specific to a particular job or task. Examples include coding, data analysis, language proficiency, and engineering knowledge. Hard skills are highly job-specific and are essential for the performance of certain roles.

Soft skills

On the other hand, soft skills are interpersonal or people skills. These encompass attributes like communication, teamwork, leadership, and adaptability. Soft skills are generally more transferable than hard skills and can be valuable in various job roles and industries.

What are competencies?

Competencies encompass a broader range of attributes and go beyond mere skills. They are a combination of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that contribute to overall job performance and individual success. Competencies are significant because they focus on a person’s capacity to integrate and apply their skills and knowledge effectively.

Competencies include a wide array of characteristics such as adaptability, critical thinking, decision-making, leadership, communication, and problem-solving. These attributes are crucial in fostering personal and professional growth as they address not just what you can do but how you do it.

What’s the difference between skills and competencies?

Now that we’ve explored the definitions of skills and competencies, it’s crucial to understand the key distinctions between the two. Skills are specific abilities that are task-oriented and narrowly defined, serving as the fundamental building blocks. Competencies, however, include a broader spectrum of attributes, including skills, knowledge, and behaviors. They emphasize an individual’s holistic development and their ability to perform effectively in various roles and situations — making them adaptable and versatile in the workplace.

Examples of Skills and Competencies

Let’s delve into practical examples to illustrate the concepts of skills and competencies. Hard skills, such as coding for software development, data analysis for market research, and language proficiency for translation services, are indispensable for specific job roles. Competencies like adaptability, leadership, and communication contribute significantly to overall job performance and career growth. These examples showcase the tangible nature of skills and the holistic, multifaceted aspects of competencies.

What are transferable skills and competencies?

Nearly 86% of employers say they want proof that prospective employees have solid problem-solving abilities, according to a Job Outlook 2022 Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Transferable skills and competencies are qualities that can be applied across different professions and industries. Employers value both these attributes during the hiring process as they are indicators of an individual’s adaptability and potential for success in various roles.

Examples of transferable skills and competencies:

  • Critical thinking: The ability to analyze information, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively.
  • Time management: Efficiently utilizing time and resources to meet deadlines and achieve objectives.
  • Adaptability: The capacity to adjust to new circumstances and quickly learn and apply new skills.

How can you develop skills and nurture competencies?

The journey of personal and professional development involves both skill enhancement and competency nurturing. To develop and improve your skills: 

  • Consider enrolling in relevant courses, workshops, or training programs 
  • Practice skills regularly 
  • Seek feedback from mentors or peers can further enhance your skills 

When it comes to nurturing competencies: 

  • Start by assessing your current attributes through self-reflection or professional assessment tools
  • Seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors to understand areas for improvement
  • Engage in experiences and training programs that promote competency development. 

By embracing these strategies, you’ll be on your way to a well-rounded and adaptable personal and professional growth path.

Understanding the differences between skills and competencies is crucial for HR and professional learning leaders in organizations, as well as higher education faculty supporting training and skill development. Recognizing and developing both skills and competencies are essential for personal and professional growth as well as lifelong learning. Adopting virtual learning tools and video + feedback solutions like GoReact can enhance your ability to develop skills and assess competencies—so you know you’re preparing and supporting learners effectively.