What is job competition?
There are multiple and varied conceptual approaches to job competition. A generally accepted concept defined as an effective ability to carry out successfully a fully identified work activity. The job competence is not a probability of successful execution of a job; it is a real and proven ability.
A good categorization of competence, which allows the definitions to be better approximated, is what differentiates three approaches. The first conceives competence as the ability to execute tasks; the second concentrates it on personal attributes (attitudes, capacities) and the third, called “holistic”, includes the two previous ones.
Below are several definitions of labor competence made by experts, national training institutions and national standardization and certification institutions.
Definitions of some experts
Some definitions have been selected trying to build a range as complete as possible.
Agudelo: Comprehensive ability that a person has to perform effectively in specific work situations.
Bunk: It has professional competence who has the knowledge, skills and aptitudes necessary to exercise a profession, can solve professional problems autonomously and flexibly, is able to collaborate in their professional environment and in the organization of work.
Ducci: Labor competence is the social construction of meaningful and useful learning for productive performance in a real work situation that is obtained, not only through instruction, but also - and to a large extent - through experience learning in situations concrete work.
Gallart, Jacinto: A set of constantly changing properties that must be tested for solving specific problems in work situations involving certain margins of uncertainty and technical complexity […] do not come from the application of a curriculum […] but from an exercise of application of knowledge in critical circumstances.
Gonzci: A complex structure of attributes necessary for performance in specific situations. This has been considered a holistic approach insofar as it integrates and relates attributes and tasks, allows several intentional actions to occur simultaneously and takes into account the context and culture of the workplace. It allows us to incorporate ethics and values as elements of competent performance.
Le Boterf: A construction, based on a combination of resources (knowledge, know-how, qualities or aptitudes, and environmental resources (relationships, documents, information, and others) that are mobilized to achieve performance.
Mertens: Provides an interesting differentiation between the concepts of qualification and competition. While by qualification is understood the set of knowledge and skills that individuals acquire during the processes, For socialization and training, competence refers only to certain aspects of the body of knowledge and skills: those necessary to achieve certain results required in a given circumstance; the actual ability to achieve a goal or result in a given context.
Miranda: In a generic way, it is usually understood that labor competence includes the attitudes, knowledge and skills that allow the successful development of an integrated set of functions and tasks according to performance criteria considered suitable in the workplace. They are identified in real work situations and are described by grouping productive tasks into areas of competence (more or less permanent functions), specifying for each of the tasks the performance criteria through which their performance can be evaluated as competent .
Prego: “… Those personal qualities that allow us to predict excellent performance in a changing environment that requires multifunctionality. Learning ability, potential in the broad sense, flexibility and adaptability are more important in this regard than specific knowledge or experience in handling a certain programming language or a specific computing tool. ”
Kochanski: Competences are the techniques, skills, knowledge and characteristics that distinguish an outstanding worker, by his performance, over a normal worker within the same job function or category.
The above is a good example of the competence approach centered on the attributes of the person, widely used in the processes of management of human resources by competencies. This approach focuses on the definition of competence as attributes of people that allow them to achieve superior performance; originated from David MacClelland's research.
Zarifian: "I understand by competence, to take initiative and take responsibility successfully, both at the level of the individual, and of a group, in a professional situation.
A further example of the competence approach that focuses on personal attributes is found in the report known as SCANS13, which classified two large groups: one of base and the other of transversal competences.
Definitions of competence in institutions dedicated to the training and development of human resources
The advancement of the concept of competence has facilitated its application from the institutional perspective associated with vocational training. Below are some definitions from two institutional levels associated with vocational training, the first being that of the governing bodies of national systems that work in the field of standardization and / or certification of competencies; The second is that of vocational training institutions in the region:
Australian National Training Authority: Competence is the ability to perform tasks and obligations according to the expected standard of employment.
Chilean Ministry of Labor: Labor competencies consist of the capacity of an individual to perform a productive function in different contexts, according to the requirements of quality expected by the productive sector. Unlike practical knowledge and skills, which can be validated through diplomas and degrees in the technical and vocational education system, competencies require a special evaluation and certification system.
National Qualifications Authority (QCA) of England: defines work competence within the framework of national vocational qualifications. NVQs are competency-based qualifications. They reflect the skills and knowledge necessary to perform a job effectively, and demonstrate that the candidate is competent in the area of work that the NVQ
NVQs are based on occupational standards to describe the competence that a worker should be able to demonstrate. Such standards cover the main aspects of an occupation, the ability to adapt to future changes, and the knowledge and understanding necessary for competent performance.
In the English system, rather than emphasizing a definition of labor competence, the concept is latent in the very structure of the standardized system. The labor competence is identified in the norms through the definition of elements of competence (labor achievements that a worker is capable of achieving), performance criteria (definitions about the quality that the performance must exhibit), the field of application ( physical area, materials, people and tools with which the worker interacts) and the required knowledge.
In this arrangement, five levels of competence have been defined that allow differentiating the degree of autonomy, variability, responsibility for resources, the application of basic knowledge, the breadth and scope of abilities and skills, the supervision of the work of others and the transferability from one area of work to another.
Council of Normalization and Certification of Labor Competency (CONOCER) of Mexico: Productive capacity of an individual that is defined and measured in terms of performance in a certain work context, and not only of knowledge, abilities, skills and attitudes; These are necessary but not sufficient by themselves for effective performance.
Brazilian Ministry of Education: Ability to articulate, mobilize and put into action, values, knowledge and skills necessary for the efficient and effective performance of activities required by the nature of work.
The Basic Education Guidelines Law establishes that a person is competent when “he constitutes, articulates and mobilizes values, knowledge and skills for solving problems, not only routine, but also unexpected, in his field of action”.
National System of Qualifications and Professional Training of Spain: Professional competence is the set of knowledge and skills that allow the exercise of professional activity, according to the demands of production and employment.
The concept of professional qualification appears in the Spanish model, which is defined as the set of professional competencies with significance for employment, which can be acquired through modular training or other types of training and through work experience.
National Institute of Employment (INEM) of Spain: "Professional competencies define the effective exercise of skills that allow the performance of an occupation, with respect to the levels required in employment."
"It is more than technical knowledge that refers to knowledge and know-how." The concept of competence encompasses, not only the skills required for the exercise of a professional activity, but also a set of behaviors, power of analysis, taking strategic, transmission of information, etc., considered necessary for the full performance of the occupation.
ILO, Human Resources Development and Training Recommendation 195: The term “competencies” encompasses knowledge, professional skills and technical expertise that is applied and mastered in a specific context.
Province of quebec: A competence is the set of socio-affective behaviors and cognitive, psychological, sensorial and motor abilities that allow to properly carry out a role, a function, an activity or a task.
Federal Council of Culture and Education of Argentina: "An identifiable and evaluable set of interrelated knowledge, attitudes, values and abilities that allow satisfactory performance in real work situations, according to standards used in the occupational area."
How are job competition and competitiveness related?
The movement towards the adoption of the labor competence approach has been related to the changes that are currently taking place at a global level in different areas. In particular, Mertens associated labor competencies with the generation of competitive advantages, the productivity strategy and the management From Human Resources.
For this author, the emergence of the competition approach is undoubtedly related to the productive transformations that occurred from the XNUMXs onwards. Increased exposure to global competition and pressure for quality improvement and reduction of costs, were
strategies that quickly spread from Japan to the west.
Companies have quickly understood the need to prevail in the market, generating competitive advantages; For Mertens, the problem can be summarized in the following question: how can companies differentiate themselves in a market that tends to globalize and that facilitates the rapid and massive dissemination of best organizational practices and technological innovations?
Business strategies towards improving competitiveness ended up generating elements of differentiation from the organizational structure and the incorporation of elements that were previously only part of their environment.
In this way, collaboration networks were built between the productive function and other key agents such as suppliers, consultants, contractors, clients, workers, etc. Real virtual structures were created in which what was important were not physical and financial assets but other very valuable intangibles, such as knowledge, training, innovation capacity, market management, motivation systems, etc.
One of the key components in this nascent architecture is the human factor; the contribution made by the people and collaborators of the organization in favor of the objectives of the company. Thus, it is concluded that the emergence of the labor competition approach is fully related to the competitiveness strategy, given the company's need to differentiate itself in the market from the development of its human resources.
Currently, the relationship between a competent workforce and a country's level of competitiveness and productivity is widely accepted. There are several diagnoses associated with the low availability of skills and the degree of productivity of the economy. Examples of this are the national diagnoses on education and training that supported the projects of transformation in education in Chile and Mexico.
As an example, in Latin America we can cite an illustrative experience of the relationship between productivity and skills development. This is the Productivity Measurement and Advancement System (SIMAPRO), whose basic principle starts from accepting that the modification in the performance of workers affects productivity indicators. Performance is part of a broader concept, that of behavior, and works in the direction of identifying the factors that affect performance in order to correct them through directed actions specifically designed for this purpose. A fundamental aspect is the definition of indicators on the productivity of the organization.
SIMAPRO's basic methodological principles are:
- limited to aspects of productivity that staff can control;
- attends to the measurement of the objectives corresponding to the functions that the personnel fulfill;
- the interaction between different indicators can be assessed instead of just one alone;
- An aggregate indicator is built that can measure progress in staff performance;
- the indicators are dynamic, fluctuating and changing; new ones may appear or others may not be used;
- the model must be simple and understandable.
How is the process followed to apply the labor competency approach?
When speaking of the labor competence approach, it is convenient to distinguish between the different phases in its application; evidently the concept and its theoretical bases underlie the applications that are found of the concept in job training and education, as well as in the management of human talent.
The phases to be described are: identification of competencies, standardization of competencies, competency-based training and certification of competencies.
Many of the questions that make up this text will refer to each of the dimensions. However, some conceptual details about each are advanced.
Identification of competences: It is the method or process that is followed to establish, from a work activity, the competencies that are mobilized in order to carry out such activity satisfactorily. Competences are usually identified on the basis of the reality of the work, this implies that the participation of workers is facilitated during analysis workshops. Identification coverage can range from the workplace to a broader and much more convenient concept of occupational area or scope of work. Different and varied are available
methodologies to identify the competences. Among the most used are: functional analysis, the “curriculum development” method (DACUM), as well as its SCID and AMOD variants and the methodologies characterized by focusing on the identification of key competences, behavioral court.
Standardization of skills: Once the competencies have been identified, their description can be very useful to clarify the transactions between employers, workers and educational entities. Usually, when standardized systems are organized, a standardization procedure is developed, in such a way that the competence identified and described with a common procedure, becomes a norm, a valid reference for educational institutions, workers and employers. This institutionally created and formalized procedure normalizes the competences and makes them a standard at the agreed level (company, sector, country).
Competency-based training: Once the description of the competence and its standardization have been arranged, the development of job training curricula will be much more efficient if you consider the orientation towards the standard. This means that training aimed at generating competences with clear references in existing standards will have much more efficiency and impact than that unrelated to the needs of the business sector.
It is necessary not only that the training programs are oriented towards generating competences through the basis of the standards, but also that the pedagogical strategies are much more flexible than those traditionally used.
Thus, competency-based training also faces the challenge of allowing greater ease of entry-re-entry, making the ideal of continuous training a reality. In the same way, it is necessary to allow a greater interference of the participant in their training process, deciding what they need the most from the training, the rhythm and the didactic materials that they will use in their training, as well as the contents that they require.
Some of the key competencies, which are most frequently emphasized today from the perspective of the management of human resources, are not generated in the knowledge transmitted in educational materials, but in the forms and challenges that the learning process can promote. Paradoxically, many times there is an insistence on generating attitudes focused on initiative, problem solving, abstract thinking, interpretation and anticipation; In the midst of educational environments in which the basic unit is the group, they all go at the same rate and they all submit to the same quantity and quality of media in a totally passive role.
Competency certification: It refers to formal recognition of an individual's demonstrated (therefore evaluated) competence to carry out a standardized work activity.
The issuance of a certificate implies the prior completion of a competency assessment process. The certificate, in a standardized system, is not a diploma that accredits studies carried out, it is proof of proven competence; it is obviously based on the defined standard. This gives much more transparency to the standardized certification systems, since it allows workers to know what is expected of them, employers to know what competencies they are requiring in their company and the entities that carry out the training facilitate the preparation of their curriculum. The certificate is a guarantee of quality on what the worker is capable of doing and on the skills that they possess for it.
What advantages does a worker obtain from skills-based training?
The certification of labor competencies entails an advantage for the worker by recognizing acquired competences, even during their experience, and not limiting the description of their labor capacities to what their academic life has been.
The most developed models of the competency approach aim to give certification the same value as educational degrees, destroying the concept of first education and second category education.
On the other hand, organizationally, a worker who knows what is expected of him, is more efficient and motivated than the one who is assigned a position and is not located in the great framework and functions of the organization. The training plans in which you will participate will be much more aimed at improving your performance, and the evaluations that are made will make more sense regarding their contribution to the organization's objectives.
The advantages derived from the transparency of the market that is achieved with a good certification system, are fully exploitable by the workers. A training process is expected to develop broad-based competencies, applicable in a wide range of work situations. These skills are often called key skills. Thus, it has been proven that in the exercise of different work activities common skills are put into play, which are not exclusive to a job and can be appropriated for the exercise of different jobs.
Competency-based training helps the worker's skills to be exploited in a wider range of employment options. In this sense, training and certification of competencies support employability. Additionally, competency-oriented training privileges the development of skills associated with understanding, conceptualizing what is done, and therefore facilitates learning and retraining.
His focus is more open and inclusive in relation to application at work. It exceeds the privileged dedication to the development of physical abilities by containing the conceptual base and above all, addressing the results and the competencies that are behind them.
Compensation mechanisms can be linked much more easily to the level of competences and thus be clear to the worker and to the company. The possibilities of labor mobility can be judged with more weight when the required competences in other areas of the company are known. Some of the competencies associated with certain performance areas are likely to be fully transferable to other areas; if such competencies are recognized and certified, they can speed up promotion decisions and motivate those who wish to do so, to carry out training actions that allow them to be eligible for these new positions.
What advantages does a company get from competency-based training?
Companies have begun to recognize that their main source of differentiation and competitiveness is their people. Every day more experiences are collected from business organizations that guide their competitive efforts to strengthen their human assets. Generating environments conducive to innovation and continuous learning are objectives that are based on training processes for the development of job skills.
The competencies approach remarkably clarifies the panorama for the selection of personnel, which can be based, no longer on diplomas, but on demonstrated capacities. The new lines in terms of staffing are described on the basis of competence profiles. The simplification in the crowded and often inoperative job descriptions is greatly facilitated with concepts such as performance levels and areas of competence, rather than the traditional and worn way of baptizing positions and creating unnecessary differentiations between collaborators who interact to similar levels and with high degrees of interdependence.
The training of the workers has an easier identification and provision through mechanisms of evaluation of the competences that each one has, that facilitate the identification of those competences to be developed in each case, and therefore, of the required training actions.
Many business training programs fall into the easy and ineffective formula of the cookbook that, by repetitive, only manages to account for resources in time and money but does not mean further progress in the eyes of workers.
Some companies, in countries that have labor competition systems, have managed to connect their remuneration and incentive policies with models of management of human resources based on job competence. Such models associate the achievement of competencies with compensation mechanisms; This, however, is a field that has not been covered yet and that presents great challenges. One of the most tense points is centered on the assumption that a certificate of competencies should directly entitle its holder to receive additional compensation; This extremely simplistic argument could dissuade many companies from implementing a competency system.
A practice increasingly used and more required by many companies is to measure the variation that a training and skills development action causes in their productivity. In addition to the SIMAPRO45 methodology that was previously referred to, there are applications such as the one developed by SENCE in Chile46 which consisted of measuring in specific cases the impact of training on productivity through the use of econometric techniques.