Competencies, Competency management, Competency mapping and Competency based HR and so on are concepts and practices that have evolved in the HR space. But how useful are these? In a world of simplification are they relevant.

It is difficult for me to understand the word “Competencies”. It seems somehow cut off from the day to day life. Yet I know it is quite relevant – at least the content of it, if not the word itself. I spoke to a few experienced HR people and ask them about competencies. Each one gave a different – though very – explanation of competencies.

Why I dislike the word competencies

My problem is this. If HR is about enabling people to excel – develop, grow and better contribute – then should we not use a language that connects to people. At the end of the practices are for them and to be adopted by them. If that is the case we need simpler words that everyone can understand – right up to the lowest level of employee. Why not do away with competency and simply use the word skills. Of course skills itself can mean different things. Maybe it encompasses many facets not traditionally acknowledged as “skills”.

Skills may include knowledge on a subject or expertise in a domain. But the good thing is that it is a word that almost relates to competency, does not need a definition and is one that everyone can relate to immediately and easily.

If we talk to two young staff members and have a conversation with one of them on “competency development” and the other on “skills development” who would engage with the conversation better. Surely it is going to be the one with whom we are using skills. It is so much easier to converse with him. Surely he will participate in the conversation unlike the other one who will withdraw from the conversation because he cannot relate to the word competency.

The other aspect that I like about skills vis a vis competency is that it is universal. Everyone – right from national leaders onwards to educated and uneducated populace is using this word. A word that is a universal appeal and thus achieve the purpose of conveying a universal message – one that can be appreciated by all.

In a world which is unifying, and getting more simplistic, HR may very well adopt commonplace language for them to be more effective.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Ramu heads up the It’s Your Skills team and enjoys being completely hands on with day-to-day operations. An engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology at BHU in Varanasi and with an MBA in HR from XLRI in Jamshedpur, his key objectives are conceptualizing and developing ideas for solutions, driving product development and business strategy. A creative and strategic thinker, Ramu has a rich and distinguished career with almost a quarter of century spent in senior management positions in the IT, FMCG and HR sectors.

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