Are Competencies Still Alive?


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It has been more than 40 years since psychologist David McClelland contended that a person’s past performance, rather than IQ, is a better predictor of future occupational success. This idea prompted HR professionals to focus on creating competency-based job descriptions that helped identify the best candidates. Although McClelland’s insights helped revolutionize the HR industry, they aren’t as relevant in today’s workplace. Here’s why:

  1. Talent vs. Potential- Employers interested in identifying talent first have to evaluate potential before anything else. Successfully measuring the ability to develop talent in the future ends up being more beneficial than assessing past performance, particularly among less experienced candidates.
  1. Problem Solving- Finding candidates that can identify problems before they appear is essential to cutting-edge organizations. In the rapidly evolving workplace, people in innovative positions need to be adaptable and effective at jobs that aren’t clearly defined yet.
  1. Personality- Having employees with stable temperaments is critical. Creating a personality profile allows employers insight into a person’s abilities and helps predict important outcomes in areas ranging from leadership and communication to ethical behavior.

Competencies are still alive, but the methods of analyzing them are changing to focus more on the impact of personality on job performance. “It is only through this deeper understanding of people that organizations will be able to leverage their human capital and unleash people’s true potential at work” says Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

To read more about competencies in the modern work environment, read our complimentary ebook Are Competencies Still Alive?