Should you focus on competency development or skills development in 2023?

What is the difference?

It’s a bit of a trick question due to their definitions:

  • Competencies are defined as “the combined utilization of personal abilities and attributes, skills and knowledge to effectively perform a job, role, function, task, or duty.” (Employment and Social Development Canada) (ESDC)
  • Skills, on the other hand, are “the developed capacities that an individual must have to be effective in a job, role, function, task, or duty.” Skills can include technical skills, such as programming or software development, or interpersonal skills, such as communication or negotiation. Skills are generally easier to learn and can be developed through training and practice.

While competency development can include skills development, they also include the set of behaviours, attitudes, and knowledge, of which are what allow a person to successfully perform their job. Hence, starting from a skills-first-focus can mean:

  • Not understanding all of the other aspects of the competencies in which it can used that are necessary to know when, where, and how to apply the skill for maximum benefit
  • Not knowing which skills have value across multiple competencies.

What are the benefits?

Studies have shown that investing in the development of employee competencies can provide organizations with a competitive edge and improved business performance. The American Productivity and Quality Centre found companies that focus on developing competencies enjoy improvements such as:

  • 5.7% increase in productivity
  • 10.5% increase in customer satisfaction
  • 6.9% reduction in employee turnover

Research conducted by the American Management Association found that organizations with high levels of competency development also experience a 46% higher return on investment than those without.

Other potential benefits from investing in your employees’ competency development:

  • Ensures they have the necessary knowledge and abilities to do their jobs more effectively
  • Creates a more cohesive team environment, as employees are better able to understand each other’s roles and how to work more cohesively together
  • Improves employee engagement in a time when Gallup reports that an average of only 32% of employees report themselves as being engaged at work
  • Improves employee retention and reduces quiet quitting

Are Competencies only role-relevant?

While competencies are often associated with specific job titles, such as a sales manager or a customer service representative, many of them may cut across multiple roles. As we discussed in “How to make the right investments in yourself” and How to “Maximize Your Organization’s Potential with The Hive: The Ultimate Coaching Platform for Business” there are 38 competencies common in all workplaces beyond role-based ones. We also discussed how we can help you identify the ones most relevant to your employees’ goals by enabling your employees to identify the ones they would like to further enhance or develop to maximize their contributions to your organization’s growth, innovation and strategy.

What competencies do you plan to work on in 2023? Share them in the comments.

Getting Started

Contact Jason Beres to get your team onto The Hive, and Larry Cooper to learn more about Competency Development through The Hive.

About The Hive Professional Network

At The Hive, we are committed to providing people and organizations with the insights, coaching, and mentoring they need to become who they are meant to be so they can realize their true potential in work and in life. To do this we are building an ecosystem for coaches and those seeking coaches to find their perfect match through our proprietary matching algorithm, unique platform, and strategic partnerships.

Find your Hive

Are you a Coach? Join The Hive and get set to take your coaching business to a whole new level in 2023 and beyond.

Are you looking for a Coach? Join The Hive to find a Coach to help you reach personal and professional objectives.


Larry Cooper is the Chief Strategy Officer and A/CTO at The Hive Professional Network.

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