What Are Competencies?

Competencies are ‘sets of behaviours that are instrumental in the delivery of desired results’ (Bartram et al, 2002). In the context of business they are behaviours that support the attainment of objectives within the context of that specific organisation’s strategy. Competencies are sometimes also called ‘capabilities’ but irrespective of the term used, the focus is on ‘behaviours’ not technical knowledge or skills.

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The Value of a Competency Framework

A competency framework, or model:

  • provides a common language of excellence as the foundation for key people processes
  • helps to drive culture change by aligning behaviours to the values of a business or a new desired state
  • helps to make an organisation more cohesive by breaking down boundaries with a common language
  • promotes fairness and openness within appraisal and recruitment systems – helps clarify differences between jobs and grades
  • drives measurable business outcomes and performance


  • Organisations using a consistent competency model across talent acquisition, learning performance management and sucession processes are five times as likely to achieve best-in-class performance as those that do not.

    Aberdeen Group Research

Competency Framework Expertise

Based on our research and experience of working with thousands of organisations, we developed our Universal Competency Framework (UCF). The UCF presents a state-of-the-art perspective on competencies and underpins all of our products and services.

Refined over time, and reviewed and updated in 2016, the UCF was originally created in 2001. It has been used to assist many clients when building their own integrated corporate competency frameworks. It is based on an in-depth review of the behavioural competency domain reflecting both our own research, models created by other providers and models developed by our clients and for our clients.  The UCF is relevant for all organisational roles, levels, sectors, and sizes of organisation, large or small, global or single site.

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Structure of the UCF

The UCF is defined in terms of a 3-tier structure.

  • 8 general competency factors at the highest level
  • 20 competency dimensions further explaining the general factors
  • 82 competency components at the most granular level

Statistical analysis was progressed to inform this structure and to ensure the competencies at all levels are discrete.

Business Challenge Taxonomy

Following our Leader in Context research published in 2017, we are now able to link our UCF framework to a taxonomy of 27 business challenges organisations are facing.

This business challenge taxonomy is now core to our competency review and design process, and is leveraged during the visioning stage with your key stakeholders to ensure behavioural competencies are aligned to your key challenges.

Learn more about competency framework characteristics and best practice design approach.

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