Capabilities versus Competencies

I just read a needs analysis document from a company I really wish I could share and brag a little about, but due to confidentiality agreements they will need to remain a secret.  However, I will share with you how they were framing the discussion about Capabilities versus Competencies.

They began by clarifying for the reader that a Competency is a cluster of related knowledge, skills and attitudes that among other things affect a major part of one’s job.  A Capability however is a blend of aptitude and personality traits.  Capabilities are innate and difficult to change and should be left to the selection and hiring process, while Competencies  can be improved by training and therefore can be learned.

I am a huge fan of training when it applies and looking for other solutions when training does not belong.  So when I read this introduction, I realized that they were setting the stage to say some of what we will do is done before the person joins the company and some of what we will do will happen in training the skills they need to perform the work.

It was a great reminder to those of us who are pressured to train everything and that training cannot fix everything.  While I disagree that some personality traits can be altered with training, it comes down to the individual wanting to change the way they work.  Time Management skills come to mind, and sometimes people come out of training a changed person, and others exactly the same way they entered.

So the next time someone wants training, use the Competencies versus Capabilities test before you say yes.


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