It can be hard to pin down the exact definition of workplace competencies, but as a general rule of thumb, workplace competency is the underlying skill that enables workers to perform effectively on the job. Workplace competencies are not necessarily derived from formalized education and can often incorporate soft skills, which can only be obtained through practice or natural talent.
Information Economy Competencies
Densely populated urban centers often focus on an information-based economy, where data processing skills and the ability to efficiently use a computer give workers an advantage over the rank and file. In an information economy, workers are likely to find themselves in an office setting working on computer terminals using various specialized software suites, each of which requires training to master. In an information economy, skills such as online research abilities, the ability to discern quality online advice from misleading conjecture and independent problem solving are often valued above physical prowess. An information economy such as those found in large westernized urban centers still requires the contribution of more traditional workers to support the base material needs of those for whom technology is a career focus.
Resource and Manufacturing Economy Competencies
Resource and manufacturing economies extract raw materials from nature, meaning that physical strength and endurance are key factors in determining the success of individual workers. For example, a worker in a resource manufacturing economy may find himself chopping down trees in a forest or assembling automobiles in a factory. Skilled workers in the manufacturing economy use shop tools and production machinery, as opposed to the data processing terminals more commonly found in an information-focused economy. Modern computerized production facilities will require at least one technician skilled in the use of computers; however, the variety and number of computer-based jobs are significantly limited when compared to a western urban information-based economy.
Introspection and Workplace Skills
Introspection is an important part of business life for both management personnel and supporting workers because it allows individuals to recognize personal weaknesses related to job competencies. Employees who spend time looking inward and developing an understanding of their personal strengths can avoid biting off more than they can chew in terms of projects and new assignments. Often, having a keen understanding of personal limits as a worker enables her to avoid embarrassing failures, which may harm her overall career success. In some cases an introspective worker may also notice a critical deficiency and work on improving it before needing to be told by those higher up in the chain of command.
Gauging Workplace Competencies
A business setting out to determine the workplace competency of new employment candidates needs to conduct deep-level pre-employment reviews, which can help interviewers observe how the candidate reacts in the actual workplace. Before conducting a deep-level review of an unemployment candidate or an existing employee, a business needs to clearly define what workplace competencies are critical for the job at hand; determining which skills are necessary for the job in question should be a joint venture between human resources and the position's direct supervisor, who is more likely to know the specifics of the job than an HR generalist. One of the best ways to conduct an in-depth review for promising candidates is by allowing candidates to job shadow for a day, upon successful completion of the first stage of the interview process. The employee the new candidate is shadowing can report on how the job candidate copes with the challenges presented in the workday.
- North Central Regional Educational Laboratory: Skills and Competencies Needed to Succeed in Today's Workplace
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Competencies for the Knowledge Economy; 2001
- WordNet Search: Competency
- Resilient Individuals, Communities & Organisations: Essential Workplace Competencies for the 21st Century
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