11 Workforce development

Relating competencies to job roles, activities and tasks

High level context: Job roles are generally defined around assigned tasks and activities, and therefore, the competencies required to perform in the role. These may be used to recruit people with the competencies required for a certain role, to identify emerging skill needs, and to coordinate ongoing talent management such as career growth and succession planning.


Who: Employer

What problem: The organization has grown and it’s difficult to describe and evaluate job roles and performance expectations across departments.

What context: I would like to develop a set of defined competencies that everyone in the organization needs to address all the tasks involved. Also, competencies specific to job roles and work activities are required.

This will help: By providing templates and resources to help us develop these competencies internally, using vetted and validated approaches

Who: Industry group in an emerging field

What problem: There is no consistent and validated information on the occupations in our emerging field, making it difficult to convey our workforce development needs

What context: I would like to develop a set of defined competencies and typical job roles/occupations in our field so that there is consistency across the industry

This will help: By providing a validated approach to developing competencies and competency frameworks, we will define our occupations in a way that has been developed and reviewed by national contributors

Both of these use cases focus on developing competencies in relation to activities and tasks in the workplace. To help you define the competencies required for an activity or task it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

Task and activities both require competencies to perform or complete them, but generally speaking:

  • Activities are broader than tasks.
  • Activities are comprised of tasks, (i.e. tasks are used to perform/complete activities).
  • Tasks always have a beginning and an end, and may be sequential, but are not always so.
  • Tasks may also have sub-tasks (i.e. things that must be done to complete a task).

This understanding of the relationship between competencies and activities and tasks is important when it comes to creating competencies. To determine the competencies required to perform an activity, you need to watch or speak with someone who knows how to complete the activity. Normally, the person(s) will show you (or outline) a set of tasks that are needed to complete the activity. At this point, you will be able to start identifying the competencies (e.g. knowledge, skills and attributes) that are required to successfully complete the activity.

You will probably find that many of the tasks that you identify will also help you to determine how to assess the performance and determine any training requirements. This helps to frame your competencies.


Let’s look at an activity that  many of us do every day – prepare and serve a meal.

Preparing a meal is an activity, which may include several tasks:

  • Find the recipe(s)
  • Gather the ingredients
  • Prepare the main dish(es)
  • Prepare any accompaniments, such as side dishes or sauces
  • Select any beverages
  • Set the table
  • Serve the food, either plated individually or served family-style
  • Clear the table
  • Clean up in the kitchen

What are the competencies we need in order to complete this activity? Preparing a meal is not a competency, but it does draw on certain competencies that apply to all cooking and/or baking activities:

  • Use recipes to prepare food
  • Use kitchen tools and equipment
  • Use cooking and baking methods
  • Follow safe work practices
  • Follow safe food handling procedures

Process for creating competencies related to work activities::

  1. Identify the main activities and tasks that are being performed.
  2. Determine the underlying skills, knowledge and attributes required to perform each of those activities.
  3. Look at how the same skills, knowledge and attributes are used across multiple tasks, and can be grouped together to form competencies.
  4. Identify performance criteria for each of the competencies.





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eCampusOntario Open Competency Toolkit Copyright © 2021 by Dennis Green and Carolyn Levy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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