West Associates Ltd • Business Psychologists




Competencies - A Cornerstone of Strategic HR Management

We define competencies as those measurable skills, abilities and personality traits that identify successful employees against defined roles within an organisation.

Core competencies are those competencies that any successful employee will need to rise through the organisation; the level of accomplishment may vary but the essential competency will remain the same. Competencies can, of course, change over time and should not be regarded as immutable.


Competencies perform two vital functions:

  • They uniquely define an organisation's values and requirements as expressed through its people.

  • They form the cornerstone for the implementation of HR systems such as selection, appraisal, management development and succession planning.

Defining Competencies:

We prefer to assess competencies using comprehensive interviewing and questionnaire techniques designed around sound psychological principles. We usually follow the 5 stages below:

  1. Repertory grid interviewing to elicit the constructs managers use when assessing management performance.

  2. Critical incident techniques to establish those competencies associated with successful managers.

  3. Extract between six and twelve core competencies from the interview and questionnaire material.

  4. Validation and agreement of competencies with senior management.

  5. Implementation.

We have used these methods successfully in many organisations including BAT, Johnson Wax, Debenhams, Saatchi & Saatchi and American Express and Hanover Housing Association.