What is Competency? Meaning, Definition & Types

Competency is the ability of an employee to apply existing knowledge and skills in his or her field and in the position he or she holds when the situation requires his or her expert intervention.

The main challenge that many HR managers and employees face is the difference between competence and professional competence. Competence in this example should be understood as a specific skill.


Anna is competent in building communications.

Anna has a set of skills to help build the communication process in the company. The implication is that Anna is knowledgeable, she is an expert, she has competency.

Anna is communicative with clients.

One of Anna's professional competences is communication skills.

In the first case, competency acts as a kind of authority, and this can be used as a distinction not to be confused. Also competency can be assessed with the help of competences, if you choose a scale and assign grades to the employee's work. It is in the evaluation of employees that professional competencies are most often used.

What is communicative competence (proficiency)?

Communicative competence is one of the easiest to understand types of competency, which is the collective property of the employee to build and maintain healthy communication and communication with colleagues, subordinates, management, customers, partners and all participants in the work process.

Communicative competence consists of several elements. These include:

  • an innate talent and predisposition to communicate with people;

  • ability to deliver information simply and understandably, to formulate a question or request without showing negativity and aggression, to build a dialogue constructively;

  • the skill of adapting communication style to the interlocutor;

  • ability to hear the interlocutor and understand his/her emotions and needs.

In the team, communicative competence is especially important for those who negotiate with a third party - customers and partners, but it is also required for managers, who at least with its help can adequately build communication within departments and transmit information both to employees and from employees to management.

What is emotional competency?

Emotional competency, like emotional intelligence and leadership, are concepts that are now actively used in the HR environment. But they should be distinguished, although they are interrelated.

Emotional intelligence is the set of human qualities that form the emotional response to external situations, and contribute to the analysis of manifested emotions for decision-making.

Four qualities stand out:

  • self-awareness;

  • awareness of relationships;

  • self-control;

  • empathy.

In turn, emotional competency is the ability to exhibit all of the above qualities in a team to evaluate one's work, self-development, and healthy competition with colleagues.

This type of competency is a kind of reflection that can manifest itself only in society. It distinguishes competency from intelligence. Emotional leadership, as one might guess, is a type of leadership that develops on the background of high emotional competency in a team, the ability to motivate oneself and others to achieve better results, taking into account the emotions, state and opinion of colleagues.

What is information competency?

This type of competency should not be confused with communicative competence, although they are similar - but in this case the communication and request for information is transmitted not to society, but to information networks.

Information competency within the work process is the ability to interact with all the possibilities of the information field, network, social networks to work and improve the work process.

It also means the ability to find the necessary information or make a request for it without outside help. In addition to infographic literacy, this also includes the ability to navigate trends and anti-trends in order to adapt your tasks to fast-growing areas.

What is intercultural competency?

A special kind of competency, which manifests itself in the ability to cooperate with representatives of all cultures, nations and races.

Intercultural competency is a set of skills that help a person to build a positive attitude and communication with representatives of other cultures, other markets (provided that the company develops its activities within other regions and countries), as well as the ability to achieve with them a constructive work process and positive results for both sides.

Is core competence the same as competency?

Let us emphasize again that competence and competency are different things. Core competence manifests itself within competency, can be measured and evaluated, and is used to evaluate a person's performance, development, potential, etc.

Key (or core) competence is a specific professional competence that a person in a certain position needs to possess in order to meet the requirements of today's market.

Sometimes key competencies are common to the whole team. Such competencies can be: systems thinking, result orientation, crisis management, etc.

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