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Employee Core Competencies: Facts you Need to Know

So many competencies and not enough facts! If you’re looking for answers about employee core competencies, this is the article for you!

Human capital

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Striving to be better today than you were yesterday is arguably the best path to success, and the same applies to organizations. Prosperous companies are constantly trying to improve their products, services, reputation, employer brand, operations, etc., but the most successful are continuously trying to improve themselves from within.

If you are one of those companies (and even if you’re not), I’m sure you’ve come across the term “employee core competencies” at times and you might wonder what it all means. But fear not, for we are here to the rescue!

Your questions and the facts you need to know about employee core aptitudes are all right here!

What exactly are Employee Core Competencies?

“Competencies”, “core competencies”, “job-specific competencies”, and other very similar terms can be seen all around.

Employee core competencies are a set of knowledge, skills, and capabilities that an employee needs in order to be successful in an organization. It is the cornerstone of the employee’s development, performance, and overall success within the company.

Why do we care about Employee Core Competencies?

There are many reasons why we need to care about employee core competencies (other than obvious ones, of course!)

Even though it might seem a little weird, employee core capabilities have nothing to do with the competencies for an actual position. In fact, in an ideal world, an organization would have identified its core competencies, and everyone within that company would possess them. If this match is achieved, then all the employees, whether they be senior executives or entry-level employees, will have the same “core” attributes.

Let’s take an insurance company as an example. Whether you’re the VP or the customer service representative, you need to have a basic understanding of the insurance industry, the services your company offers, and how everything works. You will also need some basic computer and communication skills, as well as the same orientation as your company’s culture (e.g. service-orientation, adaptability, etc.)

These are what employee core competencies are; a base on which you will build your employees’ and your company’s success on. And if that’s not reason enough to care, I don’t know what is!

How can they be identified?

Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix to identifying employee foundation competencies in your organization. Just as with everything else in business, if you want it done right, then you’re going to need to invest time and effort into it. You are really going to have to dig deep to determine what your employees need to possess that will make your company prosperous – and that’s a pretty big project for anyone to take on!

Thankfully, it is not something you must take on alone if you aren’t capable. After all, if you’re a big organization, then you have A LOT of analysis ahead of you, and if you’re a small organization, then you probably don’t have the resources to take on this project full-time. So what do you do when you have to do something that you just don’t have the capacity to do well? Outsource!

There are businesses that are devoted to identifying employee core competencies, and some are quite good at it! But if you ever run into one that tells you they will do it all on their own, then you should run in the other direction! There isn’t anyone out there who knows your organization more than you do (someone who is actually associated with it), so if a company claims they will handle everything on their own, you’re probably better off saving your money.

After all, employee core competencies are not just about your industry, they are about your mission, values, and company culture. How could anyone not working there possibly identify core competencies effectively?

Can Employee Core Competencies be developed?

The answer to this question is yes and no. Actually, it just depends on the specific competency. For example, if we’re talking about basic knowledge of the insurance industry, then it’s something that can definitely be developed. If it’s computer skills; absolutely. But can you really make a traditional, by-the-book person become adaptable? Can you train someone to become more sensitive? What about teaching a talkative person to become a listener?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Developing competencies is a tricky subject, especially because the majority of them are related to values and personality – what makes you who you are. Sure, you can learn to become a better listener, try to be more adaptable in certain situations, or put in a little effort to be sensitive and empathetic, but is that really who you are? Are you capable of acting that way in everything situation you come across, every single time?

Just reading that was probably exhausting for you! Imagine having to go against your natural tendencies at every turn; it’ll be just like swimming against the current all day, every day. And even if a person was capable of succeeding at first, your tank is going to run out and you will become burnt out.

Organizational success is a never-ending journey. Just because you’re successful today does not mean you will be tomorrow, but having the right people with the right employee core competencies will only bring your business prosperity. So what are you waiting for? Just remember that something this important deserves to be done right!

Any thoughts? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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