Competencies are like Eggs

These are exciting times, competencies are coming back into fashion just like eggs did a few years ago. There was a time when eggs were seen as a very nutritious and useful ingredient and a must have for every kitchen. Competencies in the 80’s were like that. There were a range of models you could purchase, Psychologists would write you a competency framework specifically for your organisation and some companies created their own in house. Then eggs were supposedly found to cause cholestrol and were not good for you. Intake needed to be limited. Competencies seem to have gone that way with some people suggesting they have had their day and no-one uses them much these days.

Like eggs, competencies can be used on their own as the main ingredient and with a few herbs can be very delicious and filling. Competencies can be used for self-assessment and the behavioural understandings can increase self-awareness (known to be important for personal success) and good quality development plans.


However, the real power of eggs, is that they bind other ingredients together, which is why even when they were vilified as bad for your health, no one could quite give them up. We can bake cakes without eggs, we can also do burgers without eggs, but they are not quite the same. Like eggs, competencies bind the people processes together powerfully. They create a common language of behaviour which connect the strategic capabilities of the organisation, to the acquisition plan, to the talent management plan, to learning and development, to recruitment, to onboarding, to succession planning and so on. If you need someone with capabilities in how to be creative then you have a standard way to describe creativity which goes through all processes. In many organisations it’s so embedded that people do not even know they are there. Where competencies are not used there is an opportunity to help bind and blend your people processes into a more coherent and consistent whole. It’s a single language for people to navigate through the organisation.

Beware though, just like eggs you need to know where your eggs come from, not all eggs are equal. And that is the same with competency frameworks. The best eggs are those from farms which are well established and consider the whole hens welfare – physical, mental and natural components. This is true of competencies – use well researched and maintained competencies with a full suite of support materials for development, recruitment and so on. My favourite is the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect™ Global Competencies Framework and for Eggs try the British Blacktail Eggs!