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.
Skills are specific abilities or actions that individuals possess. These abilities can be categorized into two main groups: hard skills and soft 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The journey of personal and professional development involves both skill enhancement and competency nurturing. To develop and improve your skills:
When it comes to nurturing competencies:
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.