HR Directors' Annual Provocation 2015: Beyond Competencies

Past HR Network Event

25 November 2015

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Competencies have had a good run in HR terms. They began to enter our HR discourse in the late 1960s becoming increasingly popular in the 1970s and 1980s (which is when they really began to embed in the UK). By 2015 they had become one of the staple means by which we specified the characteristics we look for in new recruits, in promotees and what we expected in terms of performance and behaviour.

However, they were not uncontentious and it may have just been that the tide was firmly turning against competencies as the dominant way of describing what we were looking for. Some of the debate and criticism had focused on the ways in which competencies reduce the complexity of work to fragments of behaviour, the way in which they assume generic applicability of certain capabilities regardless of circumstance, their emphasis on measureable attributes over more subtle qualities and interactions and their consequent effect on creating mechanistic approaches to training and development.

Our provocation in 2015 explored some of these criticisms in more depth and heard from practitioners who had moved away from competencies to finding new ways of specifying the attributes their organisations needed.

Competencies: A provocation
Jonathan Gosling

Beyond Competencies
Nana Amoa-Buahin