In a recent conversation with a major consulting company, we were asked about the relationship between skills and expertise. Their internal practices focus on expertise development rather than ‘raw skill’ and they wanted to know how we connect these at TeamFit. A related question that often comes up is, “What is the relationship between skills and competence?”

Skills, Expertise, Competence – how are these three critical concepts connected?

Skills are the ‘atomic level,’ they are the most fine grained level of description of human knowledge and potential. TeamFit is an open system that allows all users to add skills and to use the skill terms that are meaningful to them. Then, in the background, TeamFit categorizes the skills and builds the connections between them (parent skill, child skill, associated skill, complementary skill).

Competencies are the collections of skills needed for a specific role or to accomplish a task. Very few important roles or complex tasks depend on just one skill. Competency means a person has the collection of skills needed for a role or task and the attitude needed to apply them effectively. Competency models are, frequently elaborate, models of the set of skills and attitudes needed for the roles within an organization.

Expertise is a collection of skills supported by experience in applying these skills. It is a more holistic concept than skill and has multiple dimensions (because it includes more than one skill). Some people would also include ‘attitudes’ (psychometric attributes) as part of expertise. The connection between skills, expertise and attitudes is a a good topic for another day.

What connects Skills, Competencies and Expertise is a Performance Model.

What is a Performance Model and how do we derive one?

This is where the focus needs to go in the next generation of talent management and performance management systems.

Currently there are three ways to build a performance model.

Copy what has been done in the past
This is what most organizations do. Hopefully there are records on what has been done in the past and the patterns that do not work well can be filtered out. Unfortunately, most companies do not have even this basic level of data.An extended version of this is to use modern data scraping techniques to build competency models for roles, and rely on the ‘wisdom of the crowd.’ This is what solutions like Burning Glass do, which go out and catalog job offers and the skills required for each job and then aggregate that information and look for patterns.

Ask an expert
This is the realm of competency modeling and performance consulting. There are many companies that will build complex competency models for a role or an entire business function. These models rely on the consultant’s experience and in some cases their proprietary data sources.

Apply machine learning
The emerging approach to building performance models is to use big data and machine learning. This is the path that TeamFit is taking. There are two challenges at present. (i) Gathering enough data. (ii) Being able to map the data to outcomes in order to train the machine learning systems.

TeamFit is stepping up its work to address both of these challenges. We are working to collect as much data as possible about skills from as many sources as possible and then map out the connections between them. Also, we are looking for data that will connect these skill and competency models to outcomes.

Interested? Work with us to take performance management up to the next level. TeamFit can be connected to your existing systems to give deep insight into skills.