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Great eight competencies

Author: Dr Simon Moss


The great eight competencies, popularized by SHL, which is a company that constructs psychological tests, represent a set of factors that underpin job performance. These eight competencies include: leading and deciding& supporting and cooperating& interacting and presenting& analyzing and interpreting& creating and conceptualizing& organizing and executing& adapting and coping& as well as enterprising and performing (see Bartram & SHL Group, 2005;; Kurz & Bartram, 2002). In particular, this framework divided 112 specific competencies into these eight broader categories.

Evolution of the eight competencies

Importance of competency frameworks

A multitude of studies have examined the individual determinants of job performance, with an emphasis on personality and intelligence (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991;; Hunter & Hunter, 1984;; Hurtz & Donovan, 2000;; Salgado, 1997, 1998). The problem with these studies, however, is that various elements of job performance are seldom distinguished, according to Bartram and SHL Group (2005). That is, personality traits and intelligence might affect some facets of performance but not other facets of performance.

To clarify these relationships, Bartram and SHL Group (2005) argue that researchers should develop a generic taxonomy of competencies, primarily to distinguish the various activities that underpin job performance. Once this taxonomy has been developed, researchers might then explore the individual characteristics that relate to the various competencies, partly to reconcile inconsistencies in past studies.

Consistent with this proposition, researchers have shown that specific personality traits correlate with some, but not all, facets of job performance (e.g., Hogan & Holland, 2003;; Robertson, Baron, Gibbons, MacIver, & Nyfield, 2000;; Robertson & Kinder, 1993). Likewise, associations between personality traits and various criterion measures, such as leadership, vary across contexts, presumably because the precise competencies that underpin these criteria are not invariant across these settings (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002).

Examples of competency frameworks

Several researchers have attempted to delineate the key facets of job performance, which ultimately represent taxonomies of competencies. Some of these taxonomies divide job performance into two broad classes, such as contextual and task performance (e.g., Borman & Motowidlo, 1993). The distinction between getting ahead and getting along represents a similar dichotomy (Hogan & Holland, 2003).

Other taxonomies comprise broad, but nevertheless more specific, facets of performance. Campbell, McHenry, and Wise (1990), for example, identified five facets of job performance in US army recruits: core proficiency, general soldier proficiency, effort and leadership, personal discipline, as well as physical fitness and military bearing. Campbell, McCloy, Oppler, and Sager (1993) developed a more generic framework, which comprises eight facets of work performance, applicable to a range of settings. These facets include job-specific task proficiency, non-job-specific task proficiency, written and oral communication, demonstrating effort, maintaining personal discipline, facilitating team and peer performance, supervision and leadership, as well as management and administration. Generally, the association between individual traits and performance is stronger when more than two, rather than one or two, dimensions of job performance are distinguished (e.g., Scullen, Mount, & Judge, 2003).

Evidence of the eight competencies

The eight competencies emerged from a set of factor analyses, derived from SHL measures of ability, personality, and management competencies (for a review, see Bartram & SHL Group, 2005).

Delineation of the eight competencies

Leading and deciding

Leading and deciding comprises two sets of competencies. The first set of competencies is deciding and initiating action, which includes making decisions, taking responsibility, acting with confidence, acting on own initiative, taking action, and taking calculated risks. The second set of competencies is leading and supervising, which includes providing direction and coordinating action& supervising and monitoring behavior& coaching& delegating& empowering staff& motivating others& developing staff& as well as identifying and recruiting talent.

Support and cooperating

Support and cooperating entails two sets of competencies. The first set, working with people, includes working with people, understanding others, adapting to the team, building team spirit, recognizing and rewarding contributions, listening, consulting others, communicating proactively, showing tolerance and consideration, showing empathy, supporting others, caring for others, as well as developing and communicating self-knowledge and insight. The second set, adhering to principles and values, refers to upholding ethics and values, acting with integrity, utilizing diversity, as well as showing social and environmental responsibility.

Interacting and presenting

Interacting and presenting comprises three sets of competencies. First, relating and networking entails relating and networking, building rapport, networking, relating across levels, managing conflict, and using humor. Second, persuading and influencing entails making an impact, shaping conversations, appealing to emotions, promoting ideas, negotiating, gaining agreement, and dealing with political issues. Third, presenting and communicating information includes speaking fluently, explaining concepts and opinions, articulating key points of an argument, presenting and public speaking, projecting credibility, and responding to an audience.

Analyzing and interpreting

Analyzing and interpreting also entails three sets of competencies. The first set is writing and reporting, which includes writing correctly, writing clearly and fluently, writing in an expressive and engaging style, and targeting communication. The first set is applying expertise and technology, which includes applying technical expertise, building technical expertise, sharing expertise, using technology resources, demonstrating physical and manual skills, demonstrating cross functional awareness, and demonstrating spatial awareness. The third set is analyzing, which comprises analyzing and evaluating information, testing assumptions and investigating, producing solutions, making judgments, and demonstrating systems thinking.

Creating and conceptualizing

Creating and conceptualizing comprises three sets of competencies as well. The first set, learning and researching, entails learning quickly, gathering information, thinking quickly, encouraging and supporting organizational learning, and also managing knowledge. The second set, creating and innovating, includes only innovating as well as seeking and introducing change. Finally, the third set, formulating strategies and concepts, includes thinking broadly, approaching work strategically, setting and developing strategy, and visioning.

Organizing and executing

Organizing and executing can be divided into three sets of competences. The first set is planning and organizing, which comprises setting objectives, planning, managing time, managing resources, and monitoring progress. The second set is delivering results and meeting customer expectations, which includes focusing on customer needs and satisfaction, setting high standards for quality, monitoring and maintaining quality, working systematically, maintaining quality processes, maintaining productivity levels, and driving projects to results. The third set is following instructions and procedures, including competencies like following directions, following procedures, time keeping and attending, demonstrating commitment, showing awareness of safety issues, and complying with legal obligations.

Adaptive and coping

The next set of competencies, adaptive and coping, can be divided into two categories. The first category, adapting and coping, includes adapting and responding to change, accepting new ideas, adapting interpersonal style, showing cross-cultural awareness, dealing with ambiguity. The second category, coping with pressure and setbacks, comprises coping with pressure, showing emotional self-control, balancing work and personal life, maintaining a positive outlook, and handling criticism.

Enterprising and performing

Finally, enterprising and performing also comprises two sets of competencies. the first set, achieving personal work goals and objectives, entails achieving objectives, working energetically and enthusiastically, pursuing self-development, and demonstrating ambition. The second set, entrepreneurial and commercial thinking, entails monitoring markets and competitors, identifying business opportunities, demonstrating financial awareness, controlling costs, and keeping aware of organizational issues.

Measures of the great eight competencies

No definitive measure of the great eight competencies has been developed. Instead, researchers can apply existing measures of competency, such as SHL tools like the inventory of management competencies (SHL Group , 1993a), the customer contact competency inventory (SHL Group, 1999b), or the work styles competency inventory (SHL Group, 1994). All of these measures generate between 16 and 36 competencies, which can then be assigned to one of the eight primary competencies.

Bartram and SHL Group (2005) examined how these competencies correlate with performance and ability. Some key insights emerged. First, the eight competencies were minimally correlated with each other, on average.

Second, many of these competencies are moderately, but not excessively, related to personality. Extraversion is associated with leading and deciding. Openness to experience is related to both analyzing and interpreting as well as creating and conceptualizing. Agreeableness is inversely related to enterprising and performing. Furthermore, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability tend to be associated positively with interacting and presenting, supporting and cooperating, organizing and executing, as well as adapting and coping. Nevertheless, these correlations tend to be moderate, seldom exceeding .25 for example.

Third, ability or intelligence is primarily associated with analyzing and interpreting. Modest associations were also observed between ability or intelligence and three other competencies: interacting and presenting& creating and conceptualizing& as well as organizing and executing.

Fourth, related to overall job performance was highly related to analyzing and interpreting, organizing and executing, enterprising and performing, leading and deciding, and creating and conceptualizing. Competencies that reflect contextual, rather than task, performance, such as supporting and cooperating, adapting and coping, as well as interacting and presenting, were only modestly related to ability.


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Last Update: 6/27/2016