Coaching Skills, coaching techniques, executive coaching

What does a competency framework look like and how is it used?

This blog should help you to understand what a Competency Framework is. It will seek to clarify what is meant by Competent, Competence, and Competencies within the scope of the learning and development environment in the workplace.

Below you will also be able to download your free Competency Framework pack.

Defining Competence

‘Competence’ in its Chambers Dictionary definition is the “ability to do something successfully or efficiently”. Employers set out a definition of competence for most roles within a company. This definition is to enable employees and employers to understand what it means to be competent in any given role. In order for an employer to define capability for a role a competency framework is written. The framework will enable suitability and capability to be identifiable.

A framework, for example, Time Management, is designed to define the competence of a particular skill. By using frameworks to define competency you are able to manage employees and teams much more cohesively and effectively. These are skills based proficiencies that are identifiable. Employees should be able to identify themselves somewhere within any framework. As such competency frameworks are important and useful HR tools by which an employer can identify an employee’s level of suitability both before and during employment.

What are Competencies?

Competencies are skills, knowledge, and behaviours that lead to successful job completion. The can be task oriented or skill focused. They are a measure of personal skills or attributes of an employee, a required behaviour within a job role. These skills are defined skills that employees need to demonstrate in order to be able to efficiently do their job. The more competent you are able to demonstrate yourself to be usually correlates with your suitability for leadership roles in that competency. It is a useful guide to correlating those that are likely to be able to instil leadership values on others in the area in which they are scoring highly.

Competency Concepts

Competency is a concept linking three parameters – Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude. It may be that an employee has excellent interpersonal skills. However, they may not be considered competent at interview as a Project Manager unless their education (knowledge) and attitude fit the required competencies.

How are they used?

Competencies defined within any framework are designed to be discrete and cumulative so that each rising level builds on the levels that preceded it.

Competence Frameworks can therefore can be used as a recruitment tool but also as a performance management and continuing professional development (CPD) tool. They can provide a company with evidence as to suitability of candidate but also of progress of employee provided the frameworks are used correctly.

What is the Definition of a Skills Scorecard?

A Skills Scorecard is in essence a competency framework. A Skills Scorecard like a competency framework is a set of attributes and behaviours written by an employer that broadly defines what the company expects from a person in any role or decompartmentalisation of that role. For example, the company may have a Time Management  framework through which your ability to manage your time and prioritise your workload efficiently will be measured against. Take a look at our Time Management Training Course to give you an idea of expected and useful behaviours.

What does a competency framework look like?

Usually this tool will consist of a number of competencies which can be generically applied across a number of roles within a company. Physically, it often looks like a matrix with scoring system tallied to a description of the behaviours which demonstrate certain levels of competency. To download our Competency Framework example pack please follow the link at the bottom of the page.

Critically, it is important that the language is simple and clear enough that it can be readily understood by any employee, enabling a common understanding of what ultimate job behaviour for that company or role looks like.

This common understanding of the skills frameworks then enables performance management to flow more intuitively. They enable any employee to find better ways to improve their likely score when put against the framework. It enables an alignment is company ethos and an alignment with a company’s preferred process of achieving certain activities and goals. It can generate team oriented goals and create clear visions for employees as to the company’s preferred behaviours and processes.

How Do these Skills Frameworks Affect Me?

Frameworks are used for development discussions, as seen above. They are also used a recruitment tool and as a performance management aid. Work objectives will lead you to what you might need to achieve in any given role and frameworks will set out how you can get there.

Most employees need to focus on a number of different frameworks and competencies, identified by your employer or manager as being relevant to your role and being relevant to the company and even department in which the role is located. There is usually scope for discussion around those competencies selected. Frameworks are generally used by employers to be a useful and helpful tool for the employee and the employer – they are not designed to hinder the worker. If they are created in a considered way they add enormous value very quickly to the professional development of employees and the sense of belonging to a company.

Competency Framework from MBM

Competency Framework

Competency Based Interviews

Advice on differing interview techniques can be frustrating to find. A better way to prepare yourself is to understand what a competency based interview is so that you can learn how to provide neat responses to standard questions in your field.

In a structured interview, which is  a competency based interview, each question is designed to identify specific skills in the candidate. They are not trick questions. The candidates’ answers are usually then correlated with pre-determined criteria for the position applied for and the candidate is graded according to how their answers fit with that skills matrix. Better ways to present yourself at interview are to try to mirror industry standard frameworks when responding to questions. Reviewing how these frameworks are structured enables candidates to be more au fait with the sort of language an interviewer is going to find helpful in scoring you at a certain level. This embedding of language in application forms is also helpful to get you shortlisted.

Competency Framework and a Personal Development Plan

Competency Frameworks are often used when writing and creating Personal Development Plans. It is often useful to have a framework for each area of development for an employee (or pool of employees). Doing this can bring a significant coherent structure to a Personal Development Plan. It enables clear demonstrable targets to be identified that can be usefully evidenced. Understanding why these frameworks are important therefore can help you build a better Personal Development Plan. This is turn provides the employer and employee with confidence in the continuing professional development process. Read more about a ‘Personal Development Plan’ and to see examples of them.


Personal Development Plan Table from MBM

Personal Development Plan

How Can a Line Manager Support My Skills Development?

In 2007 a survey of Line Managers was conducted by CIPD. The survey concluded that 23% of Line Managers do not take learning and development seriously. We suspect a further 50% pay some attention, leaving only a quarter of Line Managers who are fully supportive.

Download Your Free Competency Framework Pack

Competency Framework Jigsaw MBM

Competency Framework Jigsaw

In order to get the most out of them you must engage your line manager in your personal development. 1) Ask them to review the competency frameworks 2) Ask them to identify the top 7 soft skills that your job requires. 3) Ask them to choose which level of competence you should aim to achieve in three interval, 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months.

Afterwards the discussion should focus on how you will get to where you want to be. Additionally, you then identify what support you’ll need. This can then usefully be added to your personal development plan.

Feel free to get in touch. Simply fill out the form below or email us at, and we will be happy to get back to you with further information.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.

Leave a Reply

Where Next?