Competency and competence have often been used interchangeably. Moreover, people often think that competency and competence are one and the same however this is a misconception. What a lot of people fail to realize is that these are two different concepts and cannot be used to take the other’s place. To understand this better, definitions of each are given below.
Competency (pl. competencies) refers to the characteristics of a person; these may be observable or non-observable. Such characteristics are behavior-based, and are instrumental to helping a person perform his tasks at a higher level. On the other hand, competence (pl. competences) refers to the standards and requirements of a job; these are the roles that a person needs to perform to do his job. An example of competence would be: answering phone inquiries; and one good example of a competency for this role would be: smiling while answering a customer inquiry (politeness in giving customer service).
Stages of Competence
Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist during his time, developed the Four Stages of Learning or the conscious competence theory. It talks about an individual’s learning cycle, which includes:
Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
The individual does not realize that there is a needed skill that he does not possess at the moment. He is unaware of this issue so he does not do anything to remedy it.
Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
The individual has already realized that he lacks a certain skill that is needed for him to excel in his career; thus, his learning phase commences.
Stage 3: Conscious Competence
The individual has already learned the skill and yet he is still not confident that he can perform a required task using this particular skill; he is self-conscious and uncomfortable applying the skill.
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
The individual is completely confident with his newly acquired skill. He can perform tasks on his own without any problem at all.
In essence, the stages of competence are progressive learning- from incompetence to competence.
- Competence Motivation- Created by Susan Harter, this theory revolves around the idea that a person’s need to control and create changes have allowed him to try new things, learn new skills, find new challenges, and undertake new endeavors that are not necessarily survival requirements. Competence motivation is the drive that enables a person to engage in tasks that will help him excel and be successful in his own right.
- Perceived Competence- This theory talks about a person’s perception of himself, in relation to his capacities; his beliefs and cognition of the skills and abilities that he possesses. This self-perception is influenced by past experiences and by information derived and observed from other people.
- Attribution Competence- This theory states that people not only make careful observations when receiving or making performance evaluation but also attributes part of their performance results to certain causes. When a person does this, he is able to take better control of his behavior and the environment he is in because he understands that this could affect his competences, and at the same time, it protects his self-esteem and confidence.
The Value of Competency and Competence
If one questions on which is more important- competency or competence, there is no answer. As mentioned, these are two different concepts, and one needs the other to achieve their purpose. Competency is that characteristic that enables a person to perform a task in a superior manner; competence is that task in which a specific competency is required.
Fundamentally, competence can be achieved successfully or relatively better when the person performing the task possesses the necessary competencies. Conversely, if the person does not have the necessary competencies, this could result to dissatisfactory outcome in performing certain competences. Again, competences are the various functions or roles that each job position has.
An organization needs to improve the competency level of their employees by conducting a performance assessment throughout the entire program, department, or organization. Once weaknesses have been identified, designing a framework or model is the next step, which will serve as the guideline that all concerned need to adhere to. Everyone needs to take part in the process in order to attain optimum results; and sufficient monitoring and feedback strategies need to be employed so that consistency and uniformity are achieved.
If these are followed, competency levels of the employees are sure to improve and the predetermined competence is carried out successfully.