Why Transversal Competency Assessment is Important for an Employee’s Career Development

Friday, 2. September 2016
Mirjam Neelen, Trinity College Dublin – Learnovate, Ireland


Today’s employees are facing increased work lives and longer careers. Within those longer careers, they’re dealing with changing labour markets with reduced job security. Because of the reduced job security (not many people have a “job for life” anymore), they need to be more adaptable in order to make themselves more ‘mobile’ for them to be able to move between jobs.

To cope with all this, employees need to enhance their awareness and understanding of their career development. If they understand both their abilities and the social network in which they work they might have a better understanding of their current “career state” as well as realistic career paths that they can potentially achieve.

It’s important to note that ‘career path’ can mean different things for different people. Some might want to climb the career ladder and shoot for the moon but that’s definitely not for everyone. Luckily there are other ways of developing your career as well. For example developing your career laterally or diagonally is another way of looking at it. This basically means that you identify your “skill gaps” compared to your next aspired role and determine what you need to do to develop those. But how do you know what your skills gaps are? This is where competency assessment comes in.

In DEVELOP’s definition there is a difference between skills and competencies. A broad and general description of a competency could be “The combination of observable and measurable knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes that contribute to enhanced employee performance and ultimately result in organisational success.”[1]. This description shows that a skill is only one part of a competency. A skill itself can be defined as a developed proficiency in mental operations of physical processes. In other words, the ability to do something, to perform a task successfully.

Before explaining why competency assessment is important for career development in further detail, it’s important to emphasise that DEVELOP focuses on transversal competencies. Some competencies are very specific to certain jobs or job types. However, other competencies such as communication and collaboration are required for a vast array of jobs (O*NET). The extent to which competencies can be transferred from one job to another, is usually captured in the term transversal. In other words, these are competencies which have been learned in one context, to master a special situation or problem and can be transferred to another context.

Transversal competencies are considered more and more important in today’s organisations because they need to become more agile to address business needs and to remain competitive. Employees need to, and there’s that word again, be able to adapt to that need. So, transversal competencies are becoming more and more critical for individual employees to develop. However, how to capture and measure these competencies in order to understand which ones you need to develop is not straightforward.

DEVELOP’s aim is to offer a solid competency assessment framework that will allow individual employees to assess their transversal competencies. DEVELOP will do this by using different types of assessment and also by extracting competency proficiency evidence from an employees’ social capital. All these different pieces of evidence together can help employees to get insight in the current state of their transversal competencies. As an employee you can then compare your current competency profile with, for example the required competency profile of an aspired role. DEVELOP also supports the individual employee how to get there. All pieces of the puzzle will come together in a personal learning environment (PLE).

Last but not least, improving awareness of transversal competencies, learning opportunities, and career development is not only beneficial for the individual employee. It goes beyond that.  For organisations it can aid better skill-matching and employee motivation. And this, in turn can result in reduced attrition rates, reduced loss of tacit knowledge, and increased competitiveness and growth.



[1] Human Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, n. d.