What Are Competencies?

by David Ingram; Updated September 26, 2017
Professional competencies fuel career advancement.

A competency, simply put, is something that a person or organization is competent in performing. Competencies are a mixture of natural talents and practiced skills, and they can set individuals and organizations apart from others in the marketplace as specialists in a particular field or activity. There are large number of competencies to be mastered, ranging from playing Chess to handling contract negotiations. Certain competencies, however, are highly prized in the workforce and the business world, including leadership competencies and interpersonal skills.

Professional Competencies

A professional competency arises directly from education and experience. Professional competencies can be called trade specializations, and they include skills like bricklaying, graphic design and investment management. Professional competencies develop over time throughout the course of people's lives and careers, making them more valuable to employers and professionals as their competence grows, allowing them to seek more lucrative positions with higher levels of responsibility.

Managerial Competencies

Managers require an additional set of competencies to supplement their professional education and experience. Business leaders must be competent in motivating others, mediating disputes, developing employees' professional competencies, and providing direction in complex projects. Leadership competencies may come naturally to some managers, but these skills are most effective after being strengthened through education, mentorship and experience.

Interpersonal Competencies

Interpersonal skills can be just as important as professional competencies when it comes to performing a job efficiently and effectively. No job exists in a vacuum; no matter what the position, employees require effective communication skills, conflict management competencies, and the ability to learn and grow professionally to succeed. Like leadership skills, interpersonal skills come naturally to some, and are more challenging for others. Naturally unsocial employees can study, practice and refine their interpersonal competencies to maximize their effectiveness, increase their job satisfaction, and work their way into higher-paying positions.

Core Competencies

Core competency is a term used to describe the specific activities that a company does best. Individuals have focused on their core competencies for ages — a logger is unlikely to look for work as an upholsterer, for example. Lean companies in the 21st century have learned to focus on their core competencies as well, outsourcing business functions that would be costly and ineffective if performed in-house. It is not uncommon for businesses to outsource logistics and distribution, certain marketing activities and even recruiting to reduce costs and gain a competitive edge. The concept of core competencies also has applications in international trade. Different countries and regions around the world enjoy natural competitive advantages derived from their location or history, allowing companies who focus their core competencies on local natural advantages to dominate global industries.

About the Author

David Ingram has written for multiple publications since 2009, including "The Houston Chronicle" and online at Business.com. As a small-business owner, Ingram regularly confronts modern issues in management, marketing, finance and business law. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in management from Walsh University.

Photo Credits

  • professional woman image by nutech21 from Fotolia.com