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Companies are increasingly turning to competency libraries to be more aligned, agile, and adaptable. What is a competency library? How can it help?

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, organizations need to be aligned, agile, and adaptable. Yet the changing nature of work, from remote and hybrid setups to shifting workforce demographics and evolving technologies, makes it challenging to identify, develop, and assess the skills that drive a company forward.

A growing number of business and HR leaders are turning to competency libraries to help. What is a competency library? How can your company benefit from one?

What is a Competency Library?

A competency library is the full set of competencies that an organization identifies as important for its employees to perform well in their jobs and roles. Each competency encompasses the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that describe how a person performs at work.

The library typically contains a comprehensive list of these competencies, each one defined and categorized by job roles and/or functional areas. It’s a standardized, central resource – serving as a master reference for employees, managers, and leaders across the organization to understand the meaning of each.

Competency Library vs. Competency Model

A competency library and a competency model are two related but distinct tools. A competency library is a comprehensive collection of all competencies needed anywhere in the organization. A competency model is a subset of competencies selected for the company’s specific roles, jobs, and professions. These are the set of skills and competencies deemed to be essential for successful performance in each specific  context.

Competency models provide a targeted view of the skills and behaviors needed for effective performance in specific positions. As one example, Avilar’s employee competency model addresses professional, leadership, and occupational skill sets.

How to Build Your Competency Library

Because a competency library is an enterprise-wide resource, you’ll want to include all the competencies that your organization needs to succeed – across all departments, roles, and management levels. We recommend starting with a third-party library or model, such as the comprehensive O*NET Content Model managed by the U.S. Department of Labor. As your team considers the list of competencies, you’ll quickly select the ones that are most relevant. Customizing a comprehensive model like this is much quicker and easier than building your own model from scratch.

As needed, adjust the definitions from the library or model you started with, to make the list relevant to your organization. Add essential competencies that are not represented in the original list.

Then, work together to streamline – balancing the breadth of skills required with a desire to create a manageable list. Decide, for example, whether or not you need to include competencies that have a high degree of overlap in their definitions, such as “adaptable,” “nimble,” and “flexible.” Where prudent, choose one.

Once you’re all on the same page, you can start using the competency library to build out the competency models you’ll use for job roles and professions.

Your Competency Library in Action

As a central resource for defining, assessing, and developing competencies within an organization, a competency library provides a standardized framework for company-wide talent management practices. So, the relevant competencies should be included in job descriptions, learning plans, performance reviews, and career development discussions and documents. The more consistently you use your set of competencies, the better your communications and the faster employees will confidently build the skills they need to succeed.

Of course, things change. At least annually, review your competency library and adjust it to keep current. You may need to add skills and competencies as new technologies, industry regulations, or best practices emerge. Likewise, you’ll want to retire those “perishable” skills that are no longer relevant.

Benefits of Using a Competency Library

A competency library offers numerous benefits to organizations. Here are six key advantages:

  1. Clarity. By providing a centralized and shared resource, a competency library ensures that everyone in the organization is working from the same framework. The standardized language supports clarity and reduces ambiguity. It provides a common understanding of needs and expectations, minimizing miscommunication.
  2. Alignment. By aligning competencies with job requirements, organizations can attract, select, retain, and develop employees who demonstrate the capabilities necessary to do the work. Employees, managers, and leaders can be confident that the company’s workforce is building and honing skills that will help the company thrive.
  3. Consistency. A competency library allows organizations to clearly define the competencies required for each role or job family. So, recruiters, managers, and employees can consistently assess applicant fit and employee performance based on an agreed-upon set of specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors.
  4. Enhanced Performance. By establishing a competency library, organizations can systematically identify and promote the competencies that are most important for driving organizational performance. By aligning employee capabilities with strategic objectives and business priorities, organizations can enhance overall productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Competency-based talent management practices contribute to a high-performing workforce and support the achievement of organizational goals.
  5. Agility. A competency library provides a flexible framework that allows organizations to identify, define, and adjust the competencies required for success in specific jobs and roles. By updating and adding new competencies to the library regularly, the organization can quickly respond to changing business needs – in a way that’s accessible to everyone in the company. This agility ensures that your workforce management practices stay aligned with evolving job requirements and industry trends.
  6. Long-Term Success. Used strategically, a competency library is a powerful tool to guide the development of future leaders. By mapping the desired competencies for leadership roles, organizations can build robust succession plans that identify and nurture future leaders. Leadership competencies can be added, changed, or removed as the company and market changes and best practices morph over time. The proactive approach to leadership reduces gaps and supports long-term organizational success.


Ready to start a conversation about your company’s competency library? Download our Competency Management Toolkit and contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems could support your next steps.


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