Seven Questions Concerning Competence Management
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Seven Questions Concerning Competence Management

Competence management is potentially very useful. However, there are some questions that still need to be resolved.

Competence management is an important tool to allow an organization to work towards its strategic goals. However, there are still some points that deserve consideration. Some aspects of competence management are still rather vague. Here, seven questions will be asked to clarify these aspects.

1. Is ‘success’ clearly defined?

What is success? A difficult question to answer. In companies, it is mostly answered in economical terms, yet these cannot completely cover the load. After all, there are social, political and even psychological factors that come into play.

The more vague success is defined in a company, the weaker the links with the relevant competences are. This results in an overload of competences, which prevents focusing on the behavior that is required.

2. Is there a link between competence and talent?

The implicit demand in competence management is that competences and talents are inextricably linked together. However, this is not necessarily the case.

The more unclear the link between competence and talent, the more unimportant both become in the steering of the daily work process. This leads to a waning desire to do a job, or fulfill a role.

3. Is there a connection between ‘can', 'may' and 'will’?

Competence management focuses mostly on the ‘can’ aspect. Can he/she do this? Can our goals be reached? And so on. However, the ‘may’ and ‘will’ aspects are also important. They promote audacity and action, which, certainly in a dynamic environment are valuable assets.

The more the focus lies and the ‘can’ aspect, the more competence management is experienced as something cold and mechanic. This, in turn, prevents employees to feel involved in the process.

4. Does competence management actually contribute to the daily work?

In many companies it can be noticed that the daily work process and competence management are two distinct processes.

And the more this happens, the more competence management will be experienced as something extra, that takes a lot of time and does not aid in the daily work.

5. What if you don’t have the right skills?

Much (justified) attention has been spent on the importance of having the ‘right’ skills for the company. But isn’t it naïve and idealistic to think that the right people will be found effortlessly?

The more the focus lies on the demands of the appropriate skills, the more chance that otherwise valuable employees will be overlooked. This results in the fact that the employees will view competence management as an unnatural system that is too focused on the goals of the company.

6. Aren’t there too much competences?

Most functions have a mean of twelve to twenty competences, each with two to five behavioral levels. This might be too much.

The more competences per function, the more the focus is diluted from the really important aspects of the job. This leads to the fact that competence management can’t be taken seriously, as there is no differentiation of importance.

7. Is there coherence?

Two weak points in the coherence of competence management are:

  • The assumption that future success of fulfilling a certain function can be extrapolated from presently observed behavior, which is an oversimplification.
  • The focus on 'one right way' to do things, which limits creativity and originality.


Competence management is a potentially useful tool in management! But there are some matters that need to be clarified for it to reach its true potential.

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