For most purposes, we may have an intuitive understanding of the two terms which is normally sufficient. But first let’s drill down to get at what really separates these two key ideas.


  • Computer programming
  • Handling accounts
  • Language proficiency
  • Actively listening


  • Problem-solving
  • Negotiation
  • Data-based decision making
  • Strategic planning

These knowledge skills and competencies examples show us what we probably already know about skills and competencies- that skills may enhance competencies, but competencies can, and often are, unlearned talents that we bring with us to the job and classroom.

In the real world, all too often, job competencies are made from either an inborn talent or a hard-won skill. Either way, the worker is treading on things made from incomplete knowledge, skills, and competencies. Our goal here is to find a way to take those with competencies, to add skills to those competencies, round it out with a knowledge base – and from this, we expect to see truly spectacular professionals to be the result.

Competencies vs. skills

We all like definitions, especially those of us with language competency. So we are now going to break these terms down according to their definitions, and using examples, tease out the important differences between them.

Competency meaning: Knowledge, behaviors, or tendencies that lead an individual to be successful in a given activity.

The most important relative of the word “competency” is “compete.” If we were to engage in a given ability in the form of a competition- in, say, an acting contest, what we would have is a competition. Those who are competent in acting may enter the contest with a chance at victory. However, someone who has no acting experience would be wasting her or his time in such an endeavor, because such a person is an incompetent actor. They cannot compete because do not have the necessary competency.

We chose the example of typing because it illustrates the fact that skills and competencies can often overlap. For example, a competent actor brings charisma, diction, and grace to the stage. An actor may be born competent, but great actors build skills on top of their basic competency.

Competencies are a bit more nebulous than skills. For example, a person may be a competent ship’s captain, but lack the skill to be a good navigator. Certainly, a captain would be better with a mastery of navigation, but they may be able to get by without it if they have a GPS and or an officer of the deck who can do the navigating for them. In this way, we see how someone can be competent in the absence of skill.

Examples of competencies

You may have noticed that competency is still somewhat nebulous. This is because a competency can exist with or without skills. It can be made up of one or more skills, talent, knowledge base, propensity, or even in-born tendencies. Competencies begin to shine when we add skills and experience to them. Let’s look at a few more examples.

Judgment: Some people show good judgment, while others don’t. It’s one thing to train a police officer in the skills they need, but judgment comes from passion and talent.

Cooperation: Like negotiation, the ability to cooperate is about getting the most out of a team. This is an important leadership trait.

Spacial relations: People who are good at solving puzzles and engineers tend to have a good sense of size, proportion, and mechanics.

Language: Some people are better at expressing ideas than others. Some people are dreadfully articulate and yet lack the ability to do sales or debate.

Common competencies

Common competencies tend to be things we are born with a talent for, enjoy, and spend time doing. Some school-age children are better at sports than others. They enjoy it more as a result and tend to keep it up. The same goes for writing, playing Chess, dancing, math, video games… you name it.

Examples of competencies

However, let’s not completely confuse competencies with talents. You may be born with a talent. You may even be born with a tendency for competence in a given area. It might help to think of a given competency as similar to a good camping spot. A good camping spot appears naturally through proximity to trees, mountains, rivers, and a nice smooth spot of ground. But we build on it by adding shelter, amenities, and utilities- which we can compare to skills.

Knowledge competencies examples

Of course, we are born knowing very little except how to cling to our mothers. But knowledge competencies develop with time, effort, and interest. It’s worth noting that we have major institutions of learning designed to create knowledge competence and degree programs to certify those who complete them. Here are a few examples of knowledge competence.

Core competencies examples

Core competencies meaning: a skill, ability, or capacity without which a task, job, or endeavor cannot be completed.

Core competencies are those that make a person successful at a given endeavor. Every employee must have competencies that are core to the job. A typist must be able to type rapidly. An administrator must be able to communicate effectively. A core competency is central to the activity at hand. It is an ability without which the person is not competent. Employee core competencies are mission-critical abilities for your business process. Here, we’ll go over some examples of core competencies.

Examples of core skills

Up to this point, we’ve focused on competencies. This is because a competency can be a skill, can be made up of several skills, or can exist in the absence of skill. However, in the workplace, skills are rather essential. While we hope to start with competence, skills are a basic metric of capability.

Examples of core skills for resumes

  • Writing skills
  • Strategic management
  • Communication skills
  • Team building
  • Data management
  • Persuading and influencing Staff
  • Planning and organization

How to improve skills and competencies

If you’ve ever seen the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock perfectly illustrate the conflict and the convergence of Competence vs Skill. The captain embodies sheer competence while Spock embodies skill and discipline. The best episodes showed the two beginning from a place of divergence and learning to work together. In this way, through training, we endeavor to bring the two together to;

  1. Enhance existing competence with skills
  2. Build new competence from key skill sets

Much of what we do in workplace education is skills training. But by weaving in the idea of recognizing basic competence, we develop a new way of looking at the task of team training. We can build competence from skills, enhance competence with skills training, and develop employees far beyond what might otherwise be possible with the standard skills training model.

Improve skills and competencies with Lessonly by Seismic

If you find gaps in your competencies or skills, we can help. Our enablement, training, and coaching software makes continuous learning and coaching possible for all customer-facing teams. Trainers and managers can easily create, deliver, and track training on key skills and competencies for entire teams and individual employees so everyone has what they need to succeed in their roles. Ready to learn more? Schedule your own demo.