What Are Competencies? Plus 3 Tried & True Strategies Employers Can Use

What Are Competencies? Plus 3 Tried & True Strategies Employers Can Use

There’s a significant gap between the competencies employers believe are most important for new hires and the level of proficiency that new hires have in those competencies. For example, in NACE’s Job Outlook 2022 survey nearly all employers indicated that critical thinking and communication are very to extremely important for college graduates to have to enter their workforce. But only 55.8% and 54.3% of employers rated recent graduates as either “very proficient” or “extremely proficient” in these competencies respectively.

In the Global Workforce Study, employees ranked the opportunity to learn new skills among the top five drivers of attraction and retention. So it’s clear that as new graduates enter the workforce, many are still focused on growing their career through lifelong learning and are seeking out employers who can offer advancement and growth opportunities.

The key to bridging this gap between employer and employee is through developing competency-building programs in a meaningful way that can drive both individual growth as well as overall company success. This blog explores the definition of competencies, key types of competencies to focus on, why they matter for both personal and professional growth, and strategies for effectively developing competencies at your organization.

What Are Competencies?

Competencies are a comprehensive blend of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that individuals exhibit in their professional endeavors. They are distinctly different from skills because they offer a holistic view of an individual’s capabilities.

3 Key Types of Competencies

1. Technical Competencies

These competencies encompass specific, measurable skills and knowledge required for a particular job or industry. Examples include coding proficiency, data analysis skills, and engineering expertise.

2. Behavioral Competencies

These competencies focus on interpersonal skills and behavioral traits that enhance collaboration and communication. Examples include adaptability, teamwork, and effective communication.

3. Leadership Competencies

Leadership competencies highlight qualities essential for guiding and inspiring others toward common goals. Examples include strategic thinking, decision-making, and conflict resolution skills.

Why do Competencies Matter?

Focusing only on skills, without a broader consideration of competencies, is not enough to truly develop leaders and advance careers. Competencies provide a more holistic, indispensable approach to shaping effective leadership and supporting robust career development initiatives. 

5 Reasons Competencies Matter

1. Driving Career Advancement

Competencies are key indicators of performance excellence, influencing career advancement. Individuals possessing a well-rounded set of competencies are better positioned for professional success.

2. Proving Adaptability and Resilience

In a rapidly evolving work environment, competencies such as adaptability and resilience are invaluable. They enable individuals to navigate change effectively and bounce back from challenges.

3. Closing the Skill Gap

Competencies bridge the skill gap by encompassing a broader range of attributes. They go beyond specific skills, addressing the need for a diverse skill set in today’s multifaceted roles.

4. Contributing to Business Success

Competencies contribute to overall business success by fostering innovation, enhancing team collaboration, and promoting a positive workplace culture.

5. Adding Benefits at Every Level

Competencies bring incredible value for both individual contributors and managers. They offer benchmarks of excellence for current and future roles and frameworks to use when articulating feedback.

How Employers Can Help Develop Competencies

For companies dedicated to supporting employees’ competency development, it’s important to implement the right strategy for both your organization and your employees. Here are three tried-and-true strategies you can use as is or adjust to your unique needs:

  1. It’s crucial to identify core competencies specific to your industry. Take a deep dive into what competencies are not just beneficial but downright crucial for success. Align these competencies with your organizational goals, creating a bespoke roadmap for professional growth.
  2. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement with a focus on continuous learning and development. Provide your employees with opportunities to expand their skill set and acquire new knowledge. This not only enhances their competencies but also keeps your organization nimble and adaptive in a rapidly changing business landscape.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of constructive guidance and insights. Seek feedback and mentorship should be more than just a mantra. Establish robust feedback loops and mentorship programs. This not only fosters a culture of continuous improvement but also provides your employees with the support and guidance necessary for competency development.


Understanding the distinctions between various competencies and why they matter is crucial for anyone looking to support training and development. Recognizing and developing competencies are essential for personal and professional growth, as well as lifelong learning and company success. Adopting virtual learning tools and video + feedback solutions, such as GoReact, can enhance your ability to assess and nurture competencies — ensuring effective preparation and support for learners.