“Critical Skills” vs “Core Competencies”

There IS a significant difference between the “Critical Skills” and “Core Competencies.”

BusinessDirectory.com defines “Core Competencies” as follows: “A unique ability that a company acquires from its founders or develops and that cannot be easily imitated. Core competencies are what give a company one or more competitive advantages, in creating and delivering value to its customers in its chosen field. Also called core capabilities or distinctive competencies.”

Investopedia.com defines “Core Competencies” as follows: “The main strengths or strategic advantages of a business. Core competencies are the combination of pooled knowledge and technical capacities that allow a business to be competitive in the marketplace. Theoretically, a core competency should allow a company to expand into new end markets as well as provide a significant benefit to customers. It should also be hard for competitors to replicate.”

While the term “Core Competencies” applies to an entire company or organization in general – the abilities that actually make that company/organization unique – each “Capstone Position” in two different organizations might have the same title and the same function – but the “Core Competencies” related to those positions will most likely be different.

In a sense, a “Vice President – Finance” in one company will have the same title as a “Vice President – Finance” in another company . . . BUT . . . the “Core Competencies” of not only their respective organizations as well as their specific positions will most likely be different.


The darkened area in the image above shows the “Critical Skills” that are common to two different positions.

The “Critical Skills” cut across all kinds of organizations – public and private. They are not a function of the kind of business in which an organization is engaged.

The darkened areas in the image below show the “Core Competencies” that are inherent in the two positions for a SPECIFIC organization.


“Core Competencies” are totally dependent on the nature of the company or organization that makes it unique from others. A Vice President – Marketing in a consumer packaged goods company may have “Core Competencies” different from a Vice President – Marketing in a different consumer packaged goods company. Those differences are what make each company unique.

“Core Competencies” may also be referred to as “Technical Skills” – I use them interchangeably. These skills – unlike “Critical Skills” – change over time simply because technology changes constantly. For example, the skills needed to be a VP-Finance in a company several years ago will most likely be quite different from the skills needed to hold the same position in the same company today – or in the future. This enhances the need for continued education to keep up with such changes in the “Core Competencies” or “Technical Skills.”

“Critical Skills,” on the other hand, are the same. They apply to everyone.

  • Communications
  • Production
  • Information
  • Analysis
  • Interpersonal
  • Technology
  • Time Management
  • Continued Education

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