What are Competency Frameworks?

The HR Dictionary describes a competency framework as the set of duties or tasks performed as part of a job with the standards which should be achieved in these duties. This definition describes what is delivered (a set of duties or tasks) and omits how it is delivered or the behaviours and knowledge required to enhance delivery.

Imagine this scenario; you are soon to give birth to your first child, living abroad and in a different culture you are feeling a little anxious you decide to look for a midwife. So you go to a register of professional midwives and you find lots of evidence of their ability to deliver a baby. You decide to interview 2 midwives, so you identify essential criteria, or the competencies, that you require of the individual who will deliver your first child. This criterion includes:

  • Essential behaviours such as sensitivity to your needs, respect for your cultural values and beliefs.
  • Current Knowledge about midwifery education and best practice.
  • Understanding of immediate care and aftercare needs of a newborn.

You interview 2 people, both with identical qualifications. Each responds to questions about the process involved in WHAT they deliver; however there is a marked difference in their responses to questions related to HOW they deliver.

Competency is: A combination of knowledge, professional behaviour and specific skills that are demonstrated at a defined level of proficiency. Two people with exactly the same qualifications for a job can be performing to very different standards.

A well constructed competency framework will clearly describe WHAT tasks are involved in the role and the behaviours that support HOW we perform those tasks.