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Why core competencies come first?

Contrary to popular belief, the concept of core competency is a rather new idea that emerged in the 1990s as a way to link business core values to business managers’ key competencies.


A core competency is the capability or advantage that distinguishes the company from its competitors. A core competency is therefore unique to the company and presents a competitive advantage.

Core competencies are:

  • Distinct to the company and lead to the development of new products and services that reinforce the market position and strengthen competitive advantage.
  • Not easily imitable by other companies. Core competencies are likely unique in their definition.
  • Linked to company core values.


Skills are fine-grained know-how. Skills move fast and they evolve with technology. Skills are often certifiable and can be taught with the right learning opportunities.

Core competencies go beyond the notion of skills and take into account a set of behaviors, skills, and knowledge required by the company to deliver its unique value proposition to customers.


To run effectively, organizations need up to 4 core competencies maximum. It is usually not reasonable to go beyond this number. It is preferable to have 2 core competencies that makes sense for the organization, distinctive and well-defined.

To be effective, core competencies must be understandable for employees in the organization.


The interactive image above is an example of an organization’s core competencies. The core competency is broken down with distinct skills and behavior which are unique to the organization.

Important: Core competencies work if they are clearly defined with associated behaviors and skills.


Core competencies are the building blocks upon which the organization is built. Strategy is decided from core competencies and major investment decisions are made in conjunction with core competencies.

Core competencies help companies become industry leaders by influencing key business decisions. Businesses with an identified set of core competencies are better equipped to understand which activities are outside of the scope of core competencies and therefore best left to be outsourced.

Core competencies provide clarity to employees about what the organization’s values are, its purpose, and its vision about employee development. Such competencies are critical for talent acquisition and retention.

Core competencies also have an effect on learning & development choices and greatly partake in the retention of the personnel. For top management and HR, the objective is to link such competencies to the performance management system to make sure they support organizational goals and produce the expected performance outputs.

Even in times of high competition, core competencies help organizations stay ahead of the curve and consolidate their advantage around core competencies such as customer service, quality control, innovation, product design, etc.

Once the company understands what its core competencies are, it can use them in every aspect of its business and operation. These competencies will bring longevity to the business.


Core competencies must be continuously monitored and updated according to the company’s mission and external market evolutions. The risk for companies that do not challenge core competencies is to fall into obsolescence and lose their competitive advantage.

One of the most recurring challenges in regards to core competencies is employee lack of buy-in. Many employees do not understand the core competencies because they are not well-defined by the company. As a result, core competencies can become notions “off the ground” and outside of the daily workforce considerations.


1. Start from values and identify what is at the core of your value proposition

The identification of core competencies arises from a consultative process to agree on which competencies are vital to the success of the organization. This consultative process is usually done in concertation with top management, HR, and external stakeholders like consultants.

Core competencies can be created from different elements that are inherent to the company such as physical assets, patents, brand equity and talent pool.

2. Define expected skills and behaviors

To gain relevance, keep the number of core competencies to the minimum. However, do define them with the expected skills and behaviors.If you want your workforce to understand and work towards your core competencies, explain them in a succinct yet practical way.

Some companies may opt for a definition of behavior matching each competency level. Again, keep it simple. Employees performing the assessment will lose focus if there are too many levels and definitions.

Huneety helps assemble competencies and skills to build your organization’s core competencies. The pre-loaded taxonomy comes with existing definitions for each competency which helps you save time to build your unique framework.

Learn more about skill taxonomy management. 

3. Choose a suitable scale for assessment

Huneety recommends choosing a 1 to 5 scale to distinguish lowest to highest proficiency levels.

Huneety helps you customize your assessment scale framework and make it conform to your organization’s performance management system.

4. Validate with staff representatives before wide communication and training

Once you have the defined competency descriptions and behaviors that are essential to the organization;  validate the core competencies with staff representatives. Once done, communicate to the workforce, train staff, and integrate core competencies into job descriptions so they can be part of your talent management and recruiting practices.

To speed up the process, Huneety helps map your organization’s core competencies to each job role using  AI. See how it works. 

5. Perform the assessments

Golden rule: Whether you have chosen to describe behaviors of each competency level or not, the key component of the assessment is the quality of the feedback given: it needs to be fact-based.

Huneety integrates mandatory space to be filled by managers to provide factual feedback. Beyond a rating, the quality of the feedback given influences behavior change. Learn more about assessments. 

6. Monitor performance of core competencies

Huneety links core competencies to individual development plans following 70/20/10 and blended learning principles. 

If you are wondering how to assess competencies or planning to assess them in your organization, please contact us.