Learn about the meaning of skills and competencies, their differences and importance.

These are two terms that almost mean the same but have a significant difference at the same time. In most cases, skills and competencies are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they are not synonyms. Competency is a much broader term encompassing not only a set of skills but also attributes and knowledge.


When it comes to skills, the term now becomes narrow as it is more specific and easily defined. According to the Oxford dictionary, skills are developed during or after training or education, whereas competency is acquired over time through experience.

Examples of skills and competencies

Problem-solving is a competency. This will require a combination of skills, knowledge and attributes. The skill here is to identify the problem. The knowledge, in this case, is to identify a potential solution to solve the existing problems and the attribute is to try out different solutions until you get the one with the best results.

Managing Risk is a competency. One of the skills developed or required is risk versus reward analysis. The knowledge required is to be able to identify the trends related to risk and risk management. The attribute is to be able to do away with activities that increase the risk potential and sticking with the activities that do not increase risk.

Types of Competencies

Behavioral competencies – they are used in the management of personal affairs. They are acquired via training process or life experiences. They include analytical ability, problem solving and communication.

Functional competencies – they relate to the functions, process, and roles relating to the workings of a company. They include database analysis, application systems development among others.

Professional competencies – they allow for success in an organizational context. They accelerate performance. They include negotiation, people management, business environment and environmental issues among others.

Difference between competencies and skills

While skills focus on the abilities of an individual to perform a particular task, competencies determine how a person performs the tasks successfully. Competency is a broad term that comprises skills, knowledge, and ability to do the job.

Competencies bring structure to the human resource activities that conventional skills do not bring.

The core competencies tend to bring about proper coordination in the activities of a company since they are geared to help the company maintain its competitive advantage ahead of its competitors in the market.

It is no doubt that both skills and competencies are linked and both play crucial roles at both the individual level and at an organization level, but the competencies hold more advantage to the success of the person and the organization at large.

Written by on