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Article

15 minutes

Core Competencies Examples to Add to Your Company's Competency Models

Global HR

Author

Lorelei Trisca

Published

July 12, 2024

Last Update

July 23, 2024

Table of Contents

Employee core competencies examples

How do organizations use core competencies?

How can my company identify core competencies?

How can organizations effectively develop and improve their employees’ core competencies?

Define and develop your team’s technical competencies with Deel Engage

Key takeaways
  1. Identifying core competencies helps businesses focus on their strengths, innovate, and maintain a competitive edge.
  2. Regularly updating and aligning competencies with evolving business needs ensures that the organization remains competitive and effective.
  3. Multiple competency proficiency levels enable clear expectations and targeted development along specific career paths.

Core competencies play a vital role in developing comprehensive competency frameworks, which help organizations define and measure the specific abilities required for various roles. By identifying and cultivating these competencies, companies can enhance performance, support career growth, and maintain a competitive edge.

We curated 16 examples of core competencies essential for success regardless of industry, from communication and collaboration to leadership and problem-solving. We’ll define each competency and five levels of mastery, from basic to expert.

Employee core competencies examples

Here are the general employee core competencies you can plan to develop in your workforce.

Time management skills

Definition: The ability to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and use time effectively.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can prioritize tasks and manage own time.
  • Intermediate: Can prioritize tasks and manage the time of smaller teams.
  • Competent: Can prioritize tasks and manage the time of bigger teams.
  • Advanced: Can optimize the team’s time.
  • Expert: Can optimize the organization’s time.

Problem-solving

Definition: The ability to identify and analyze problems, find the best solutions, and implement them.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can identify problems.
  • Intermediate: Can identify problems and suggest solutions.
  • Competent: Can evaluate solutions and find the best fit.
  • Advanced: Can identify patterns and trends in issues.
  • Expert: Can anticipate and prevent problems.
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Communication

Definition: The ability to effectively convey information, ideas, and instructions to individuals or groups in oral or written communication.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can communicate ideas clearly.
  • Intermediate: Can communicate within teams.
  • Competent: Can communicate across teams.
  • Advanced: Can communicate with large groups.
  • Expert: Can communicate with diverse audiences.

Teamwork

Definition: The ability to collaborate effectively as a team towards a common goal, sharing knowledge and responsibilities while fostering teamwork and building a positive team dynamic.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can share responsibilities well within the team.
  • Intermediate: Can share responsibilities well within the team and actively share knowledge to achieve common goals.
  • Competent: Can collaborate well as a team member, sharing knowledge and addressing team issues.
  • Advanced: Can accelerate team building by promoting open communication, setting clear expectations, and driving a culture of growth.
  • Expert: Can work on strategic initiatives, bring multiple teams on the same page, and facilitate cross-team collaboration.

Willingness to learn

Definition: The openness to new ideas and the desire to continuously learn and develop new skills.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Open to learning new things for the role
  • Intermediate: Seeks learning opportunities, new information, ideas, and resources to enhance personal and professional growth.
  • Competent: Continuously upskills with in-demand trends/technologies and is an asset for any new project.
  • Advanced: Actively shares knowledge and experience with others within the team.
  • Expert: Acts as a thought leader at a department/organization level. Stays committed to constant upskilling and spreads knowledge and expertise.

Persuasiveness

Definition: The ability to effectively present and argue one’s ideas and opinions through persuasive communication and influence others to adopt a particular viewpoint or take a specific action.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can present basic ideas effectively and persuade others to accept them.
  • Intermediate: Can negotiate complex ideas effectively with others and reach an agreement.
  • Competent: Can influence others and make group decisions.
  • Advanced: Can handle complex negotiations like team disputes, sales calls, and new projects.
  • Expert: Can influence organizational-level initiatives like policy changes, cross-functional initiatives, and striking client deals.

Resilience

Definition: The ability to bounce back from difficult situations and maintain a positive attitude and performance.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can maintain a positive attitude in case of setbacks.
  • Intermediate: Can maintain a positive attitude in case of setbacks and guide junior team members.
  • Competent: Can maintain a positive attitude in case of setbacks and guide an entire team to overcome challenges.
  • Advanced: Can build a resilient team culture in high-performance teams.
  • Expert: Can build a resilient organization by creating a culture of adaptability.

Building work relationships

Definition: The ability to establish and maintain positive and productive relationships with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can initiate simple interactions with peers.
  • Intermediate: Can initiate and maintain basic relationships within the team.
  • Competent: Can initiate, maintain, and strengthen team relationships.
  • Advanced: Can initiate, maintain, strengthen, and leverage relationships across various functions and locations within the company.
  • Expert: Can initiate, maintain, strengthen, leverage, and create relationships with third parties.

Embracing change

Definition: The ability to adapt to new situations, technologies, and processes.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Recognizes the need for change.
  • Intermediate: Can cope with changes and is open to doing things differently.
  • Competent: Can manage anxiety and stress through changes.
  • Advanced: Can initiate, manage, and optimize change at the team level.
  • Expert: Can initiate, manage, and optimize change at the organizational level.

Empathy

Definition: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can empathize with basic emotions. Demonstrates a willingness to learn and apply empathy skills, seeking guidance and support from team members and supervisors.
  • Intermediate: Can empathize with a variety of emotions. Effectively communicates with others, demonstrating active listening and empathy in all interactions.
  • Competent: Can empathize with complex emotions and situations. Adapts communication style to better understand and respond to others’ feelings, thoughts, and experiences, ensuring that their needs are met.
  • Advanced: Can empathize, understand, and communicate effectively with diverse groups. Mentors others in developing empathy skills and fostering a culture of understanding, collaboration, and inclusivity.
  • Expert: Can empathize, understand, communicate, anticipate, and create an inclusive environment. Fosters a culture of empathy within the team by setting clear expectations, promoting active listening and emotional intelligence, and supporting individual growth and development.

Interpersonal skills

Definition: The ability to interact effectively and build positive relationships with others.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can interact politely and effectively in simple, routine situations.
  • Intermediate: Can effectively communicate and build rapport within a team.
  • Competent: Can navigate complex interpersonal situations and resolve conflicts.
  • Advanced: Can build and maintain strong relationships across various teams and departments.
  • Expert: Can foster a positive organizational culture by promoting strong interpersonal relationships and collaboration.

Decision-making

Definition: The ability to make informed, effective, and timely decisions.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can make decisions based on clear guidelines and seek guidance when necessary.
  • Intermediate: Can analyze information and make decisions for routine tasks.
  • Competent: Can make strategic decisions by evaluating options and considering long-term implications.
  • Advanced: Can make high-stakes decisions and ensure alignment with organizational goals.
  • Expert: Can drive critical decisions that shape the organization’s strategic direction.

Analytical thinking

Definition: The ability to critically analyze information, identify patterns, and develop insights.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can analyze straightforward data and identify basic trends.
  • Intermediate: Can analyze complex data and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Competent: Can synthesize information from multiple sources to solve problems.
  • Advanced: Can develop innovative solutions based on in-depth analysis.
  • Expert: Can drive strategic decisions through comprehensive data analysis and insight generation.

Results orientation

Definition: The ability to focus on achieving goals and delivering high-quality outcomes.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can complete tasks accurately and on time.
  • Intermediate: Can set goals and work efficiently to achieve them.
  • Competent: Can consistently meet and exceed performance targets.
  • Advanced: Can drive team performance to achieve outstanding results.
  • Expert: Can shape organizational strategies to ensure alignment with key business objectives and deliver exceptional results.

Customer satisfaction

Definition: The ability to understand and meet customer needs and expectations.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Can provide courteous and helpful service in routine interactions.
  • Intermediate: Can identify and address customer needs effectively.
  • Competent: Can resolve complex customer issues and enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Advanced: Can develop and implement strategies to improve customer experience.
  • Expert: Can drive a customer-centric culture and lead initiatives to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction across the organization.

Leadership

Definition: The ability to guide and inspire people to achieve a common goal and promote individual growth.

Proficiency levels:

  • Basic: Provide guidance to team members.
  • Intermediate: Enable and support individuals to achieve team goals.
  • Competent: Enable and help individuals to develop their skills, achieve team goals, and realize their full potential.
  • Advanced: Can mentor individuals and provide growth opportunities.
  • Expert: Can lead with a vision, setting the strategic direction for the organization.

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How do organizations use core competencies?

The most significant advantage of defining competencies for each role is you set clear expectations. It will help you in:

  • Hiring: Include the company’s core competencies in the competencies sections of your organization’s job descriptions
  • Performance management: Assess performance based on the competencies—the most significant advantage of having competencies is the job expectations are no longer generic, and you can assess performance directly based on competencies
  • Role level expectations: Set career progression paths with clearly defined competencies for every role—employees can see the expectations at each job level and how they can grow
  • Promotions and career growth: Consider employees for promotions or succession planning based on whether they have the required competencies
  • Training: Build competency and career development plans and train employees to improve performance in their current role or grow to the following positions based on competencies
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How can my company identify core competencies?

Identifying functional competencies is crucial in ensuring that employees have the specific skills and knowledge necessary to perform their roles effectively. Here are the steps your company can take to identify these competencies:

1. Analyze job roles and responsibilities

  • Conduct job analysis: Review job descriptions, responsibilities, and day-to-day tasks for each role within the company. Ensure that job descriptions are up-to-date and accurately reflect the current requirements of each position
  • Gather input from employees: Interview employees currently in the roles, as well as their supervisors, to understand the key tasks and challenges they face
  • Review performance data: Examine performance reviews and productivity metrics to identify what skills and knowledge are linked to high performance in each role

2. Consult with subject matter experts (SMEs)

  • Internal SMEs: Engage employees who are considered experts in your company’s field—they can provide insights into the essential skills and knowledge required for their roles
  • External SMEs: If necessary, consult with industry experts or professional bodies to understand the competencies that are standard and emerging in your industry

3. Benchmark against industry standards

  • Industry competency models: Research and use existing competency models within your industry—Many professional organizations and industry bodies have developed detailed competency frameworks that can serve as a reference
  • Competitor analysis: Look at similar roles in competitor organizations to see what competencies are valued and required

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4. Identify competencies

  • Essential skills: List the fundamental skills required to perform the basic functions of the role
  • Competent skills: Identify more complex skills that enhance performance and contribute to the strategic goals of the company

5. Validate and refine competencies

  • Focus groups: Conduct focus groups with employees, managers, and HR to review and refine the list of competencies
  • Surveys: Use surveys to gather broader employee input about the identified competencies
  • Pilot testing: Implement the competencies in a pilot program to see how well they align with performance and make adjustments as necessary

6. Document and communicate

  • Competency framework: Develop a comprehensive document outlining the functional competencies for each role—include definitions, proficiency levels, and examples of behaviors for each competency
  • Training and development programs: Align your training and development programs with the identified competencies to ensure employees can develop and enhance the necessary skills
  • Performance management: Integrate the competencies into your performance management system to track and evaluate employee development over time

By following these steps, companies can systematically identify and implement functional competencies that align with their organizational goals and enhance employee performance.

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Example: Identifying core competencies for a content marketing agency

1. Analyze job roles and responsibilities

  • Conduct job analysis: Review the job descriptions for roles such as content writers, editors, SEO specialists, and account managers
  • Gather input from employees: Interview content creators, project managers, and team leaders to understand the key tasks they perform daily and the challenges they encounter
  • Review performance data: Examine past performance reviews and productivity metrics to determine which skills and knowledge areas are linked to high performance, such as meeting deadlines, achieving SEO targets, and maintaining client satisfaction

2. Consult with SMEs

  • Internal SMEs: Engage experienced content marketers, editors, and senior managers who have in-depth knowledge of the industry—they can provide insights into the essential skills and knowledge required for each role
  • External SMEs: If necessary, consult with industry experts or professional bodies in content marketing to understand the competencies that are standard and emerging in the field

3. Benchmark against industry standards

  • Industry competency models: Research existing competency models within the content marketing industry
  • Competitor analysis: Analyze similar roles in competitor organizations to see what competencies they value and require

4. Identify competencies

  1. Essential skills: List the fundamental skills required to perform basic functions such as writing, editing, SEO, and client communication—for example: - Customer focus: Understanding client needs and ensuring their satisfaction - Detail-oriented: Paying attention to detail to produce high-quality content without errors
  2. Advanced skills: Identify more complex skills that enhance performance and contribute to strategic goals, such as: - Creative thinking: Creating creative marketing campaigns - Strategic planning: Developing long-term content strategies that align with client goals and market trends - Conflict resolution: Handling disagreements or misunderstandings within the team or with clients effectively and professionally

5. Validate and refine competencies

Conduct focus groups with employees, managers, and HR to review and refine the list of competencies, ensuring they are relevant and comprehensive.

By following these steps, a content marketing agency can systematically identify and implement core competencies. This approach ensures that the competencies align with organizational goals and enhance employee performance.

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How can organizations effectively develop and improve their employees’ core competencies?

1. Conduct a competency gap analysis

  • Identify the core competencies required for each role within the organization
  • Assess current competency levels of employees through surveys, assessments, and performance reviews
  • Identify gaps between current and desired competency levels

Example: A retail chain might conduct a competency gap analysis to determine which employees need further training in customer service and sales techniques.

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2. Implement targeted training programs

  • Develop training programs that focus on building specific core competencies
  • Use a mix of in-house training sessions, online courses, and external workshops

Example: A tech startup could offer coding boot camps and workshops on agile project management to improve technical and strategic planning competencies.

Abhishek Shah, Founder of Testlify, suggests three ways to develop core competencies in employees:

  • Training and development programs with online or cohort courses
  • Job rotation and stretch assignments to diversify their experience
  • Performance feedback and coaching so they get a mentor

3. Provide mentorship and coaching

  • Pair employees with experienced mentors who can provide guidance and share expertise
  • Offer one-on-one coaching sessions to help employees develop specific skills

Example: A healthcare organization might assign senior medical professionals to mentor junior staff, helping them improve their clinical skills and decision-making abilities.

4. Use a competency-based performance management system

Example: A multinational company could include leadership, strategic thinking, and cross-cultural communication competencies in the performance review process for managers.

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4. Encourage continuous learning and development

  • Promote a culture of continuous learning by providing access to learning resources such as e-learning platforms, professional journals, and industry conferences.
  • Encourage employees to pursue relevant certifications and advanced degrees.

Example: A financial services company could offer access to courses on financial analysis and risk management, encouraging employees to stay current with industry standards.

Define and develop your team’s technical competencies with Deel Engage

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the ability to accurately define, develop, and deploy core competencies within your teams is not just a luxury. It is a necessity.

Deel Engage empowers organizations to transform the abstract concept of ‘competency’ into actionable, growth-centric frameworks. Deel Engage stands out with:

  • Competency frameworks: Define the core, functional, and technical competencies critical to each role within your organization, ensuring alignment with business goals and culture
  • Customizable competency libraries: Populate your competency frameworks with templates from the extensive libraries of skills and behaviors
  • Integration with performance management: Seamlessly integrate competencies into your overall performance management strategy
  • Development tools: Encourage continuous competence development growth—connect growth plans to competency assessments for a holistic view of employee development and facilitate meaningful conversations that directly relate to necessary skillsets and employee growth plans

Talk to our experts about integrating different ‌types of competencies into your talent lifecycle and discover how Deel Engage can help.

FAQs

Core competencies are the unique combination of skills, knowledge, and abilities that an organization uses to deliver a unique value proposition and that offer a competitive advantage in the market.

Core competencies are deeply ingrained in the organization’s culture, processes, and operations. As a result, they must be nurtured and protected as they are essential to the company’s strategic advantage and success.

Core competencies can be organization-wide or function-specific.

Organization-wide core competencies are unique strengths that permeate the entire organization, regardless of individual roles or departments. They align with the company’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives.

For instance, a technology firm may regard constant innovation as a core competency that should be demonstrated by all its departments, from product development to marketing.

Similarly, business strategy would be a core competency for a consulting firm. As these firms often advise other businesses on strategic planning and execution, having a solid core competency in business strategy is essential for delivering high-quality, impactful services.

Function-specific core competencies refer to unique strengths required in specific departments or organizational roles.

For instance, while solid analytical skills may be a core competency for an accounting department, creative thinking might be a core competency for a marketing team.

For example, Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, takes customer service seriously. It trains all employees (regardless of the role) in customer service while onboarding. In short, customer service is a company-level core competency for all Zappos employees.

  1. Knowledge: The understanding and expertise required to perform specific tasks or jobs—this includes both theoretical knowledge and practical understanding
  2. Skills: The ability to perform tasks effectively—this includes key skills specific to a job and general skills like communication and problem-solving
  3. Abilities: The inherent personality traits or talents that enable individuals to perform tasks—abilities might include physical capabilities, cognitive abilities, or other innate qualities
  4. Behaviors: The actions and attitudes individuals display in their work—this includes professionalism, teamwork, leadership, and ethical behavior
  1. Knowledge: Theoretical and practical understanding of a subject—this encompasses the information and expertise that an individual needs to perform tasks effectively
  2. Skills: The ability to apply knowledge in practical situations—skills are developed through practice and experience and are necessary for performing specific tasks
  3. Attitudes: The behaviors and mindsets that affect how knowledge and skills are applied—this includes motivation, values, and work ethics, which influence how effectively an individual can perform in different situations

The top four competencies highlighted in many industry reports are:

  1. Communication skills: The ability to effectively convey information, ideas, and instructions to individuals or groups, both verbally and in writing
  2. Time management: The ability to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and implement strategies to use time effectively
  3. Problem-solving: The ability to identify and analyze problems, find the best solutions, and implement them
  4. Teamwork: The ability to collaborate effectively as a team towards a common goal, sharing knowledge and responsibilities while building a positive team dynamic

Core competencies can be job-specific skills to better support an individual in doing their job.

For instance, creative thinking is a core competency for marketing roles, while negotiation is a core competency for sales roles.

Core competencies are an organization’s or an individual’s unique strengths and strategic advantages. They are integral to a company’s identity and competitive edge and include both technical skills and soft skills. They are essential for achieving long-term business success and differentiating from competitors.

Soft skills are interpersonal and behavioral skills that are essential for effective interaction and collaboration. Examples include communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. While soft skills are a component of core competencies, they are not limited to them.

Yes, technical skills can be a core competency. Core competencies encompass the essential skills, knowledge, and abilities that give an organization a competitive advantage. Technical skills, particularly those highly specialized or unique to a specific industry, can be critical components of an organization’s core competencies.

For instance, advanced coding skills in a software development company or specialized engineering skills in a manufacturing firm can be considered core competencies.

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