Find out what is the distinction between skills and competency. You can easily get confused with these two concepts.

As an employee, you must have heard of the phrase “enhance your skills” and be more competent in whatever you do at your workplace. Most people get it wrong to think skills and competency are the same. The lack of knowledge on the difference between the two could result in a lack of advancement in one’s career.

Employers, HR teams and managers should make it a duty to communicate the differences between skills and competencies to their employees. This action on their path would help their workers to have a better understanding of the two terms. Hence helping them in their career path and also help them develop better.

Are you seeking to know the differences between skills and competencies? Then this article is for you as it reviews the major differences between the two terms.

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Difference between skills and competencies

Before we discuss the differences between skills and competencies, let us dive into the meaning of the two concepts.

What is a skill?

A skill can be referred to as specific intellectual abilities that a person possesses. Skills are usually applicable in specific settings to achieve a desired set goal. Examples of skills could range from; coding to web designs or handling accounts to writing tenders.

When employers know the type of skills a job seeker possesses, it will enable them to determine if their experience and training have prepared them for the position in the workplace. This is because skills are learned through experience or by training.

Often, a job candidate’s skills are used as a criterion to screen or drop job seekers. Skills are commonly divided into two, namely;

  • Hard skill.
  • Soft skill

Hard skill: these are skills that need training and technical knowledge of something. that would provide a person with the ability to complete a specific task. The skill is quantifiable and can be demonstrated through professional experiences and specific qualifications.

Soft skill: these are non-technical skills that are not or less rooted in a particular vocation. For instance, hard skills could be computer skills; soft skills may be verbal communication or time management.

The skill focuses on how people interact with one another. Especially relationship between employees in the workplace. Soft skills that are often needed to succeed in a workplace includes; listening skills, writing skills, and handling conflict.

Examples of other skills may include; data entry, java coding, oral communications, creative thinking e.t.c.

What is competency?

Competency is a much bigger concept compared to skills. It involves the combination of knowledge, behaviour and skills. Though competencies include having certain skills, it is much more than having a skill.

Competencies allow you to identify monitorable behaviours. that successful individuals demonstrates on the job or in their field. The behaviour may be due to several skills and knowledge that an employee possesses.

Competencies are observations and attitudes that would help you to be successful in your job. The competency of an individual or employee is used or serves as a yardstick to know if they would perform job functions successfully.

Examples of competencies may include;

  • Communication.
  • Risk management.
  • Customer service.
  • Decision making.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Staff development.
  • Leading a team.
  • Financial forecasting.
  • Product strategy development.
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Major differences between skills and competencies


  • While it can be very difficult to judge and evaluate employees or candidates on their competencies, skills can easily be quantified. For instance, typing as a skill can be measured by how many words per minute a person can type. On the other hand, determining if an employee is competent enough in their positions is a more difficult and subjective task.
  • Usually, learning competencies takes a longer time when compared to learning a skill. For example, while it takes about a 20-hour online course to become fairly skilful using software, learning competencies like negotiating would require a longer time.
  • Employees find it interesting to learn new skills when they are given a chance to do so. But when it comes to improving their competencies, they may not be as eager. This is because a behaviour change is a much more difficult task to accomplish.
  • Having a high level of competency can suffice when you are less skilful. For example, you can be the best trader in the world but lack interpersonal abilities and may not handle stress. With this lack of competency in behaviour, you may not be able to perform your job efficiently. But when you have the good interpersonal ability, but you are less skilled in trading and can also handle stress, you may be successful in that position.
  • Skills are less extensive when compared with competencies. While competencies comprise a set of capabilities, knowledge and skills, skills are more particular to a task.

Types of competencies


Below are three different types of competencies;

  • Technical competencies: this type of competency involves applying the necessary knowledge and skills needed to be successful in a specific field. For example, technical competency is related to the strategic sales planning of a sales department in an organisation.
  • Behavioural competencies: it expresses the inherent or natural behaviour of your employees. In an organisation, innovation and creativity could be behavioural competencies.
  • Leadership competencies: with this competency, one can capture the crucial aspects of effective leaders and translate them into quantifiable behaviours. For instance, nurturing innovation in a company can be a leadership competency.

Benefits of competencies for industries and organizations

  • Checking for competencies can help you hire the best people for your company.
  • Learning competencies can help develop effective leadership.
  • Competencies help to improve employees performance.
  • It also helps to tackle evolving job markets.

Which is more important between skills and competencies?


Both terms are very crucial to the development of workers in an organisation. Certain skills are needed to be acquired before one can display competencies. To stand out in your field or career, you must improve and learn both competencies and skills.

As a result, organisations or industries must strive to balance skills and competencies when developing their workers for future positions. Failure to do this would fill key positions with unqualified candidates that either lack the needed skills or competencies for that position.


Having a profound understanding of what the two concepts entail would enable you to differentiate between them. Though competencies have a broader meaning and benefits than skills, a skill is core in developing competencies.

Both of them are very crucial and integral to the development of an organisation or industry.

About The Author

Daren Nadav

Daren Nadav

Daren Nadav is the Co Founder of CourseForMe, which is a leading platform to find the best courses available online and delivers inspiring content related to eLearning. Daren holds a B.A in Economics and business management.

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