Notes on Competency Development

What Are Competencies?

Competencies are defined clearly in the “Report of the Workgroup on Competencies and Content” that was distributed at the first facilitators meeting here in Atlanta.

Still, the idea of competency development may be rather vague to some of us. Because of the limited time available for the Genetics Workforce Development Teams to identify competencies, this summary further defines the role of the teams. They are charged with identifying competencies needed in the area of genetics for public health as it applies to their own disciplines.

As outlined in the document mentioned above, competencies are the knowledge and skills workers need to perform their work well, – a set of attributes that workers use to accomplish their work. Most people agree that in order to develop competencies, one must focus on both the work and the worker, as well as the context in which the work is to be accomplished.

How do you write competencies?

The first step in the process is that of identifying competencies. After that, there will be a process of validating each competency prior to developing strategies for staff development. During or before the August meeting, the groups are charged only with identifying competencies. After the validation, strategies designed to develop those competencies in the public health workforce will follow.

Competencies should be stated in behavioral terms from the start. If so, the final task will be much easier. Behavioral terms are measurable, so it is important to use action verbs. A competency may be that a “worker must be able to access appropriate resources to assess the validity of news releases in genetics.” This is a measurable competency. Words such as “know” and “understand” and “appreciate” are not measurable. Rather than saying a group must know something, think of a way to state it so that you can assess their knowledge. For example state that they will be able to do something that demonstrates their knowledge. Acceptable verbs include describe, list, summarize, select, etc.

Here are a few citations and summaries of abstracts in the data bases listed above.

  • Building Robust Competencies: Linking Human Resource Systems to Organizational Strategies (Book) Author: Paul C. Green
    Content: Defines four types of competency: a) bundles of technical know-how and business processes embedded in an organization, b) core values and priorities of the organization, c) technical knowledge and on the job skills of the organization’s members, and d) work habits, communication styles, leadership and teamwork of the organization members. Basic to the author’s thinking is using behavioral language – meaning things you can see or hear being done – not what you can infer or assume.
    Find on
  • Problem-based Learning in a competency-based world. (Book) Authors: Bechtel, Gregory, Davidhizar, Ruth, Bradshaw, Martha
    Content: Suggests that teaching both critical thinking as well as competencies will develop nurses with more expertise in the field.
  • Training the Workforce: An Alternate Approach (Presentation) Author: Clifton Campbell
    Content: Training institutions and policy makers need to consider the following when considering occupational competence: economic changes in the workplace, public funding, and future work imbalances. The author suggests that competencies alone will be insufficient.Eunice Rosner CDC,PHPPO