Competencies at NIH

As the workplace changes, the workforce must shift to meet organizational goals. Here at NIH, we use a Competency Model to help staff align themselves to the greater mission.

Competencies are:


Information developed or learned through experience, study or investigation


The result of repeatedly applying knowledge or ability


An innate potential to perform mental and physical actions or tasks


The observable reaction of an individual to a certain situation

Competencies can be grouped together into competency models. These help demonstrate what is necessary for success in a position. See the Competency Dictionary for definitions of core competencies. If you aren’t sure how to get started, begin with some sample Competency ModelsCombined with other personal characteristics such as values, initiative, and motivation, competencies contribute to successful individual and organizational performance.

See our Competencies FAQs for commonly asked questions, and their answers.

Competencies for Employees

Competencies are not only about what you know, but how you apply what you know. They can help you define your duties, and the expectations of your position.

Competencies should:

  • Define expectations, not tasks
  • Provide clarity through measurable and/or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, characteristics and behaviors
  • Provide maximum flexibility to respond as job functions, roles, and technology evolve
  • Describe the work of an organization

Competencies for Supervisors

The workplace and the workforce are changing; leadership must consider what is essential for staff to achieve the organization’s mission. Competencies help align individual behaviors and skills with the strategic direction of the organization.

Competencies can:

  • Identify hiring needs proactively based on competency gaps
  • Find the most appropriate pool of candidates
  • Clarify expectations of a position
  • Assist employees in creating Individual Development Plans (IDPs) based on self assessments to target development that links to organizational goals.