Competency or Competence? Tomato or Tomatoe? But wait! - there’s a difference!

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:

competencies).

 The ability to effectively perform as a professional (at the macro-level) is

competence.


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.

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