Competencies are the measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors (KSABs) critical to successful job performance. Choosing the right competencies allows employers to:

  • Plan how they will organize and develop their workforce.
  • Determine which job classes best fit their business needs.
  • Recruit and select the best employees.
  • Manage and train employees effectively.
  • Develop staff to fill future vacancies.

Competency Types

Using Competencies

In Job Descriptions

Job descriptions explain the duties, working conditions, and other aspects of a job, including the competencies needed to perform the job's essential functions. Position-specific competencies are determined through the process of job analysis, and are documented in the Position Description (PD) form. These competencies form a basis for recruiting, hiring, training, developing, and managing the performance of employees.

In Recruitment, Assessment, and Selection

Describing desired competencies in recruitment announcements gives job seekers a clearer picture of what jobs entail. Competencies also provide the foundation for assessment and selection techniques, including exams, interviews, and reference checks.

In Employee Performance Management

Competencies allow supervisors to more fully describe to employees their performance expectations. Competency descriptions show employees what level of knowledge and skill mastery is required to successfully perform job duties, and what behavioral standards must be consistently demonstrated. Washington State's Performance and Development Plan includes competencies in both the expectations and evaluation sections.

In Training and Development

Done well, competencies allow supervisors to choose and prioritize training courses and other learning opportunities for employees. Training courses often describe the competencies students should be able to demonstrate by the end of the class. Likewise, most on-the-job and other developmental assignments are designed to build certain knowledge and skills. Knowing how class content and developmental activities build mastery helps supervisors to 'map' each position to a specific training and development plan that fosters growth in required competencies.

In Career and Workforce Planning

Competencies play a key role in workforce planning efforts. Knowing which competencies the future workforce must possess to achieve business goals and deliverables helps organizations plan and design:

  • Organizational structure.
  • Recruitment strategies.
  • Training budgets and development plans.
  • Job assignments and individual performance plans.

Employees can also use competencies to plan a career path. Knowing which competencies are critical for certain promotions allows employees to request training and development opportunities and seek out specific feedback and coaching.

In Compensation

Washington State's Compensation Plan is directly tied to the state classification system, which describes jobs in terms of the type and level of work performed. While competencies don't directly impact compensation, the nature and complexity of the work duties usually requires a certain level of knowledge and skill mastery. These competencies are often represented in the class specifications as 'Knowledge and Abilities.'

Tools and Resources