Language in the field of performance management can be confusing. Two of our key
terms: competency and competence are particularly problematic when used casually.
While it’s generally agreed that the word competency refers to an ability, it can
reference effective performance of a specific practice task (“micro-level”) or effective
big-picture performance in general (“macro-level”). Either use is linguistically correct,
but from the point of view of performance, there’s a wealth of difference!
For clarity, we at the CSC Collaborative say that:
The ability to effectively perform a micro-level task is a competency (plural:
The ability to effectively perform as a professional (at the macro-level) is
Think of it this way:
In the workplace, a “competency profile” lists a large number of micro-level
abilities (competencies) that are required for effective professional
performance: competencies enable competence.