Most successful organisations use competency and/or values frameworks to set expectations on preferred behaviour and attitudes of staff. But what is the difference? Is one better than the other? How should they be used? Can they be wrongly used?

The difference between values and competencies?

Values- these are the beliefs over what is important or right that an individual holds. Setting these at an organisational level makes a clear statement about what is important to the company, what it aspires to and what it expects its personnel to adhere to.
Competencies – these are the skills, aptitudes, motivations and personal qualities an individual possesses. They can be observed through someone’s behaviour, and therefore can be assessed under controlled conditions or measured against set criteria.

Which is best- values or competencies?

There is a lot of overlap between the two; the difference can sometimes seem to be just a matter of semantics. But in general the values can be seen as ‘what’ is important and the competencies cover ‘how’ it is demonstrated. So in reality, both are equally important because either one without the other provides an incomplete picture.

How should values and competencies be used?

Having a clear values framework can form the basis of a shared organisational culture, a coherent vision and statement of direction. Having a competency framework provides guidance to be used in the assessment, management and monitoring of staff performance.

A practical example is assessment activity for selection. A company might have a clear set of values. In an interview a candidate might say all the right things to ‘prove’ they would support these values. But an assessment, using job simulation tasks for example, would push them to exhibit behaviours which can then be assessed as either meeting or falling short of value expectations. The assessment of underlying values would be done using an assessment of competencies. For instance, the value (and also competency) might be ‘integrity’. The positive behaviours associated with this could be ‘owning up to mistakes; taking responsibility for decisions.’ This would be ascertained using a practical scenario where the candidate will show their actual attitude,
which will influence their response.

Ineffective use of values and competencies

The way most organisations get it ’wrong’ is to have a statement of values or competencies which they don’t use in a practical way. You can issue a statement of what is important to the company, but without then using this to select applicants to join, assess suitability for progression or measure ongoing performance then the statement will be meaningless. It can be rather like New Year’s resolutions end up for most people, something that they intend to do, can see the importance of, but never quite get round to applying.

Another way they can be under-used is to not tie in the two together. An organisation may wish to explore the values of candidates and staff, but without the competencies (the behavioural element), the assessment can’t work. The nature of values means they are internal and hidden; they need competencies to bring them to light.

To work most effectively, the development of the competency and values framework should be done hand in hand. It doesn’t make sense to approach these separately as they are so intertwined. If one comes later than the other, it needs to be designed with the other firmly in view. If one is reviewed, so must be the other. If one is used for assessment activity, so the other should be an integral part of the design.

Help with your values and competencies

whether it is customer focus, team work, strong leadership or innovation, our Psychologists can help you determine what’s important to your organisation. You can use this to guide your future direction- and ensure you can take your teams with you.

We work within an organisation to find out what matters, researching attitudes, aspirations and priorities to pin down a coherent framework that will support what you want to achieve.

Whether you need to design or refresh your competency or values frameworks we can support you to achieve this objectively and to a standard of excellence. For resources and practical guides register or log in to our members’ area or contact us with your enquiry.