Competency Frameworks

by Julia Miller


Examples in this page include the following:

  1. Some general competencies you might use
  2. Some generic core skills
  3. Using different levels within the same competency
  4. A Level 1 competency
  5. Leadership competencies
  6. Competencies for other management staff
  7. Using domains within a framework
  8. Rating scales.

They demonstrate how each organisation develops a competency framework that reflects its values and its core business objectives.

There are many more examples you could look at on the Internet.

1. List of general competencies

A list of this type might include the following:

  • Communication
  • Team-working
  • Gaining consensus
  • Motivating
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Decisiveness
  • Managing information
  • Creativity
  • Ability to complete tasks.

2. Generic core skills

Some organisations focus on generic core skills rather than behavioural competencies; these skills may be examined at a greater level of detail and may include areas such as those listed below.

  • Communication:
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Presentation
  • Personal effectiveness:
  • Developing self
  • Managing own time
  • Decisiveness
  • Completing tasks
  • Organisation and effectiveness:
  • Managing information
  • Acquiring information
  • Planning
  • Problem analysis
  • Evaluating
  • Monitoring

3. Different levels within the same competency

A competency framework developed within a medical practice uses five levels, ranging from foundation to expert. Each level has the same definition, which is then applied to each competency:

Stage 1 Foundation:

Can demonstrate basic skills that contribute to the activity under direct supervision of competent practitioners

Stage 2 Intermediate:

Can demonstrate acceptable performance in the activity, but requires some supervision and guidance

Stage 3 Proficient:

Can demonstrate competent performance in the activity to specific criteria without direct supervision

Stage 4 Advanced:

Can demonstrate skilled activity with advanced theoretical knowledge and understanding, based on current research/best practice and any relevant policies, procedures and guidelines

Stage 5 Expert:

Can demonstrate skilled performance, based on intuition, expert knowledge and established practice

4. A level 1 competency

An example of a core competency of ‘Building relationships with enquirers’ for Level 1 could include:


This competency is one of the competencies relating to ‘Working with people’.

  • Is polite and helpful
  • Develops rapport with users of the service
  • Inspires confidence in enquirers by actively listening
  • Uses questioning effectively to establish and understand the query
  • Assesses the enquirer’s level of understanding
  • Understands the needs and priorities of enquirers; explains when the query will be answered.

5. Leadership competencies

One county council has identified eight core leadership competencies. Each competency consists of:

  1. A one-line description or phrase
  2. A short paragraph summarising key behaviours
  3. At least eight specific behaviours that are encompassed within each competency
  4. Other behaviours that could also be included.

The core competencies are:

  1. Makes it happen and sees it through
  2. Leads for performance
  3. Champions team working
  4. Builds and delivers the vision
  5. Creates a learning culture
  6. Pioneers new approaches
  7. Enables culture of open communication
  8. Focuses on customers.

Each paragraph and list of related behaviours identify what the competency means in practice. Two competencies are given below as examples.

Example 1

Makes it happen and sees it through

Overcomes obstacles and delivers results for the organisation by showing tenacity and persistence. Gains the respect of colleagues by generating a ‘can do’ attitude. Finds other ways in the face of resistance or setbacks.

  • Demonstrates a passion for success and achievement that inspires others to follow example
  • Maintains a positive attitude and the highest level of personal drive, however difficult the circumstances
  • Looks for ways to simplify processes/structures and systems
  • Builds and maintains effective networks across departmental boundaries
  • Encourages and rewards a ‘can do’ attitude
  • Recognises effective working, not just hard working
  • Shows determination to succeed by using all possible routes and resources
  • Strives for organisational excellence

The definition could include – generates continued ownership of direction, leads across boundaries, creates partnerships, balances outcomes and processes and understand politics.

Example 2

Builds and delivers the vision

Makes the vision applicable to everyone and communicates it in a compelling and inspiring way; translates the vision into practical and meaningful reality and inspires people to work towards it. Enables individuals to see where their contribution fits in and encourages them to participate in setting future goals. Makes change happen.

  • Demonstrates an understanding of the vision
  • Translates the vision into practical objectives and specific plans
  • Promotes the vision within own team and across organisation
  • Takes a wider perspective rising above operational detail
  • Inspires trust and respect by delivering on promises
  • Identifies patterns, trends and linkages that contribute to success
  • Takes total responsibility for the performance of their part of the organisation
  • Takes difficult decisions and stocks with them
  • Recognises where change is needed and makes it happen.

The definition could include – strategic vision (and sticking to it!), balances vision and practical reality, relates strategy to practise, compel, shares across all groups, makes and owns considered decisions, anticipates, manages and makes change happen

6. Competencies for other management staff

The same council decided not to have different levels for their leadership competencies, but when they rolled the principle of competency frameworks into the lower levels of their organisation, they decided to add in four levels. This is because, when scoping the design, they preferred to have only five core competencies across the organisation, but at four levels. This allowed for a broad comparison across function, but with sufficient differentiation between individuals by level.

The five competencies they selected were very different to their leadership competencies:

  1. Working together
  2. Personal commitment
  3. Delivering quality outcomes
  4. Continuous improvement
  5. Effective and safe use of resources.

The four levels were based on expectation of achievement, not job level:

  • Level A: the individual is expected to ‘work to consistently to achieve high standards’ and meet customer needs
  • Level B: the employee is striving to improve team service
  • Level C: they are required to set ‘realistic and stretching performance indicators’
  • Level D: they need to ‘create a culture that understands the importance of quality results’.

The council also gave managers a number of guidelines to identify ‘ineffective’ behaviour for each of these competencies. Alongside these core competencies, the council also assesses technical and professional competencies.

7. Using domains within a framework

Organisations can create domains to reflect different aspects: for example, they could be based on values or job roles.

A Canadian company developed a competency framework for its information managers, using three domains, within which it identified several competencies. Only seven are given here for each domain, but there were more. It is obvious that the three domains, listed below, were chosen to mirror the values of the organisation.

  1. Managing outwards into the community
  2. Managing inwards to create a cohesive organisation
  3. Managing the information management system to help make decisions

Managing outwards

  1. Ability to define and articulate a vision for information management in a corporate context
  2. Ability to speak the language of government management and priorities and of the information technology management community
  3. Ability to use knowledge of the explicit or informal structure, processes and culture of the organisation to further IM strategic objectives or make effective decisions
  4. Ability to link IM initiatives with business objectives and technology infrastructure initiatives
  5. Energy, passion and persistence to champion IM strategic objectives with colleagues in business lines
  6. Flexible and adaptable while able to maintain a sense of stability in the face of change
  7. Ability to identify and capitalise on opportunities to meet organisational objectives and realise measurable benefits through partnerships

Managing inwards

  1. Ability to identify the need for change, persuade others of the need for change, view change as an opportunity, and provide reassurance and support for others in times of change
  2. Ability to identify, analyse and resolve barriers to change or to the attainment of objectives and provide the resources and encouragement needed to overcome them
  3. Conveys a sense of self-assurance and credibility. Ability to instil a sense of confidence, enthusiasm, commitment and desire to achieve in others
  4. Ability to recruit, develop and appraise people, based on their ability to perceive current IM organisational issues, detect emerging trends, anticipate possibilities and re-tool themselves for the opportunities for tomorrow
  5. Ability to manage human, financial, information, and other resources to meet current objectives and promote the sustainability of IM programmes
  6. Accepts accountability and encourages its acceptance in others
  7. Ability to interpret and design information management programmes to adhere to information law, policies, standards and guidelines

Managing the system

  1. Ability to use analytical techniques and a systems thinking approach to break apart complex situations or problems to identify potential solutions, risks and impacts
  2. Ability to develop governance, accountability, operational or conceptual frameworks for the management of information
  3. Knowledge of ethical, policy and legal aspects of information management
  4. Decisive, even in an environment of risk or ambiguity
  5. Ability to absorb, conceptualise and synthesise new trends and technologies to enable the development of a cross-functional IM vision
  6. Ability to conceptualise enterprise level information/knowledge flows and information architectures to create an IM vision and plan IM programmes
  7. Knowledge, at a conceptual level, of the processes, techniques, standards and technologies relating to the information life cycle

8. Examples of rating scales

Rating scale by frequency

Behaviour consistently displayed in all areas
Effective behaviour displayed in all areas most of the time
Usually displays effective behaviour in most areas
Visible effective behaviour displayed in some areas
Recognises need to display effective behaviour and is taking first steps
No tangible evidence of effective behaviour
Has no exposure to this area

Rating scale by expectation

Below is an example of a competency with its rating scale ‘by expectation’ and the guidelines given as to how to rate individuals against the scale.




Maintaining effectiveness when experiencing major changes in personal work tasks or the work environment; adjusting effectively to work within new work structures, processes, requirements or cultures

Rating scale

Needs improvement Fully competent/meets expectations Highly competent/exceeds expectations
Often resistant to changes; defends and continues to rely upon existing/status quo approaches and procedures Effectively adjusts behaviour in response to changing work environments and work processes Excels in an environment of frequently changing work structures and processes
Does not adapt behaviour in response to current situational needs Works well within an ambiguous situation Identifies opportunities and attains a high level of performance or achievement within a newly changed situation or environment
Does not adjust to new work processes and task requirements Adapts ideas and actions based on input from others Anticipates work changes and immediately adapts to the new situations and work requirements