The terms ‘skills, abilities, knowledge and competencies’ are often used interchangeably to describe the same concepts. In general conversation this is fine, but when it comes to writing a job description, assessing candidate fit, or conducting a performance review, understanding the meaning and implication of each word becomes vital.

Although the differences can seem small, they have a large impact on how we describe people in relation to their job and thus their perceived competence. For example, ‘skills, abilities, knowledge and competencies’ are words that will be used in an employee review, if used incorrectly, their meaning can be misinterpreted. This could lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings if there is a difference in how two different HR professionals understand the terms.

So, how do all of these words differ from each other? Here are some definitions:

Ability

Ability is an innate quality that one ‘does’ or ‘does not’ possess, ability is not something that can be learned or developed unless it is there to begin with. Simply, abilities are the qualities needed to perform certain behaviors and whether someone is able or not is dependent on their pre-existing qualities.  You can think of this much like potential.

Take, for example: ‘the ability to organise oneself’. If someone is not able to organise oneself, it means they have not developed the underlying qualities necessary to support their ability.

The definition can become complicated though because there are also degrees of ability.
Someone can be extremely able, but then not use their ability. Likewise, someone can have very little ability to organise themselves, but can work very hard, with the little ability that they have, and maintain some level of organisation.

If someone has a high degree of the underlying qualities needed to give them ability, then that ability can be translated into, and practiced as a skill.

Skill

A skill is something learned through experience. It is used to carry out complex activities or job functions to achieve pre-determined results. A skill is not an innate behavior and must be developed and improved with practice. A skill can be developed through getting specific training or learning as you go, but always starts off as unfamiliar.

Knowledge

Knowledge is the level of education, experience or training that an individual must have at a minimum to be considered qualified for a role. For example, some job advertisements may state that they are willing to accept graduates for a role, while others may state that the applicant must have 5 years of experience in a similar role. Knowledge can be further described as the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, or the ability to apply the information to different situations.

Competence is different from the other terms that we’ve covered so far. It is defined as the combination of related abilities, knowledge and skills that enable a person or organisation to act effectively in a job or situation. Competencies are described in ways that are observable, measurable and based on performance.

The abilities, knowledge, and skills required for someone to be termed ‘competent’ will be dependent on 1, what they are being measured against, and 2, the method of evaluation.
If one person is referred to as ‘competent’ at their job, versus being ‘competent’ at a specific function of their job, they are being measured on two different competencies. 

For example, if an accountant is being measure on their competence with working with numbers, this is one measure of competence. If an accountant is being measured on their ‘competence’ in their role as an accountant by a client, this is another separate measure.
If two people disagree on whether a person is ‘competent’ or not, within a certain area, it means those two people have different ways of measuring competence; such as arithmetic ability or client satisfaction.

Back to our accountant example: If one person thinks that the accountant is competent at working with numbers and another person disagrees, we have to look at how they’re being measured. This is why having an objective measure of assessing competencies is very important, or, at the very least, making sure to agree on the abilities, knowledge and skills required to be competent in in a certain area.

We’ve covered some very precise distinctions in this article but it’s often that these misunderstood and misused terms create huge problems when it comes to assessing new candidates, communicating with your team and conducting employee reviews.


So, if you’re feeling competent… What’s the difference between ability, skill and knowledge?  




The Turnbull Government recently made a 1.2 billion dollar cut to the healthcare industry, which will present several challenges to Australia’s ageing population and for the people who care for them. Heavier strain is placed on aged care providers because more Australians are dependent on these services than ever before. Higher demand will require well-trained staff to fill the gap. Thus, human capital will be a key area for aged care businesses looking to thrive in the new market conditions. Specifically, the assessment of talent in the aged care industry presents hidden opportunities to maximise a competitive advantage in an environment where cost cutting and limited budgets are the norm.

More demand:

The Department of Social Services states that over 15 per cent of Australia’s population is aged 65 years or more (3.5 million people); this number is projected to rise to 19 per cent by 2034. This means, in the coming decades, there will be 416 million Australians who may require aged care services. According to Professor Hugo, one of Australia’s most distinguished demographers, Baby Boomers entering retirement are 8 times more likely than the previous generation to have three or more health problems. Specifically, dementia is one major factor which highlights the need for a highly skilled workforce. Along with high demand and a more highly skilled workforce, the model of delivery itself is changing.

A new model of service means a new business approach:

The aged care sector is approaching another milestone. This milestone requires a reassessment of the service delivery model, as well as who will be delivering these services in the future. The need for complex care is increasing, partially due to those over 65 not having access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This may place aged care providers between government, economic uncertainty, and rising community expectations.

Tim Binstead wrote, “according to Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), 38 percent of aged care providers were already not viable due to budget cuts”. As a result of market consolidation, independent aged care providers may be forced to close down, exit the industry or lower their standards of care.

The cuts push the industry into a customer-centric business model i.e. the Consumer Directed Care Model (CDC). The CDC model puts more power in the hands of individuals when it comes time to decide which services they wish to use. Part of this approach is the My Aged Care System, which has received 136.6 million dollars in funding, in spite of cuts to other areas within the industry.

Aged care providers are now presented to ‘customers’ in a standardised format on the My Aged Care website. The My Aged Care System may be of little help, because aged care providers will now need to stand out in a ‘marketplace’ in order to drive revenue growth, rather than relying on reduced government backing.

Aged care providers cannot compromise in terms of food standard, levels of service, facilities and staff. Finding ways to curb expenditure and gain a competitive advantage requires a growth in the skilled workforce along with differentiation through customer experience.

The updated formula may consist of: revenue from new patient/client referrals based on superior patient/client experience, provided by skilled and compassionate staff. One of the most significant ways to impact this customer experience is to attract highly competent staff, and most importantly, improve the methods used to select them in the first place.

For example:

“The 2012 workforce survey found that three quarters of aged care homes and half of community services reported skill shortages in one or more occupations, with the three main reasons being a lack of specialist knowledge, slow recruitment, and geographical location. In rural and remote areas, providers reported difficulty in filling positions across all occupations.”

Currently, there is a workforce shortage and the low suitability of potential employees may exacerbate this issue. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace (2012) have reported an average of 1.8 suitable applicants per registered nurse vacancy in residential aged care, and only 1.6 suitable applications for every personal care worker vacancy. On top of this, it is estimated the aged care workforce will need to quadruple by 2050 to accommodate the demands of the ageing population. The new challenge for aged care providers is identifying workers with specialist skills. This is the key to maximising a skilled workforce, while minimising costs associated with employee on-boarding and retention. The recruitment challenge will require a re-evaluation of recruitment and selection methods to ensure every hiring decision has a positive impact on the business.

The biggest (hidden) opportunity for aged care providers:

The most important metrics with regards to staff are commonly not measured at all, or if so are inaccurate or incomplete, which means they can’t be improved. Metrics such as staff turnover, time-to-hire, cost-per-hire, and quality of hire are present areas that can be improved dramatically and have enormous impacts on the business.

Identifying competent people is the best place to start. For an industry that is facing strong budget cuts, is consumer focused, and judged mainly on the quality of care, these factors are likely to control the outcome of most aged care providers. Research shows that the cost of a bad hire in health care is between $10,000, to $60,000 per nurse, depending on the nurse specialty[1], so making mistakes with hiring is a cost that can’t be tolerated.

Research into hiring shows that, at a conservative estimate, there is a 40% difference in the quality of output between an average hire and a great hire, when measured in dollar value of output.[2] These figures have an enormous impact on the organisation long-term, especially considering number of employees hired and the length of time they stay with the organisation.

The assessment of skills for carer roles, especially nursing, has traditionally been undertaken by trained interviewers, however, the expense and time involved in personnel selection makes it a very costly process. The traditional application form, resume and cover-letter process takes time to sort through and can be extremely unreliable in predicting future successful performance. This process leaves huge potential for human error and hiring mistakes.

To assess whether staff will be able to cope with the demands of aged care we need to assess the attributes of high-performers in the industry. When we look at the high-performers, we find that few of these attributes can be accurately identified in a traditional face-to-face interview. Personality, including specific personality factors, proves to be one of the keys to predicting job performance in the aged care industry. Specific personality attributes accurately highlight whether an individual will provide average or negligent levels of care, or whether they will provide excellent care, to consequently improve the growth of a service business.

To highlight the impact of personality in a service based business such as the healthcare industry, here is an example: The one factor that dictates whether a malpractice claim is filed or not, is not whether a patient has been given negligent medical care, but how well the patient feels they’ve been treated by the healthcare professional.[3] If bedside manner is the difference between a lawsuit being filed or not, the ability to identify capable staff to provide excellent client care, is a crucial investment that an aged care provider can make.

We would be most interested in what challenges (or opportunities) you see in the current budget, and how you see this changing aged care in the future?

Please email me at info@psychpress.com.au – we would love to discuss different perspectives.

What’s next?
Next time, we’ll be talking about how personality affects the quality of your staff and which metrics you can measure to identify who is predisposed to do well in providing aged care service and who may be unsuited.


We hope our perspective may be useful in managing current challenges in the industry.



[1] LJ Hayes, et al., ‘Nurse Turnover: A Literature Review’, International Journal of Nursing Studies, vol.43, 2006, 237 - 263
[2] FL Schmidt & JE Hunter, ‘The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings’, Psychological Bulletin, vol.124, no. 2, 1998, 262-274
[3] M Gladwell, ‘Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’, Time Warner Book Group, New York, 2005

HR Technologiesimage


Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.”  Arthur C. Clarke


Regardless which aspect of HR you look at, there are many technologies available to help improve productivity or streamline HR processes. From general monitoring and reporting software, to AI-assisted job posting and even Virtual Reality training and recruitment platforms, the world of HR technology is advancing at a rapid pace.

Despite the wide range of HR technologies available, many HR teams lag far behind in updating their HR processes, while those that do stay up-to-date are likely to have an edge over their contemporaries.

The question is what should you be using? To simplify things we have compiled a list of the ten of the most exciting HR technologies on the market.

Textio is a startup that will help you get the most out of your job postings. Using an AI-powered text platform, Textio analyses your text against words, phrases, and measures that data with thousands of similar documents online. It then provides you with analytics and feedback to help you tweak your job posts to maximize their impact. Future products by Textio will likely focus on areas such as emailing and resume writing.

Reload allows you to outsource the recruitment process by providing a platform for businesses and recruitment professionals to interact. Reload allows businesses looking to hire new talent to quickly and cheaply connect with experienced recruiters. This process saves money by eliminating the need to work with a recruitment agency. Simply post the details of the vacant position and your job posting will be searchable for recruiters experienced in that particular area.

Cyfin is advanced monitoring and reporting software that gives you detailed analytics about employee web-use to improve security and productivity. Cyfin analyzes your workforce’s web usage in terms of site content, visit acceptability, identity (username or IP address) and download stats. Cyfin can also identify instances of online misuse or abuse and can be used across all types and sizes of network environments.

JobDiva is a web-based applicant acquisition and management tool. It provides a range of services including applicant tracking, resume harvesting, synchronization with all major job boards and robust financial tools. The “Resume Search for Skills by Years of Experience” feature is particularly impressive as it eliminates the need for recruiters to manually review piles of resumes. JobDiva can be operational within days and is suitable for recruitment agencies of any size.

Kaleo Software integrates with your company’s email to create a dynamic repository of employee generated content. Kaleo allows your employees to create content, insights and information that can be accessed by anyone in your network. The information posted is organised into questions and answers, creating an expanding FAQ specifically tailored to your business and the needs of your employees. The information created using Kaleo can be accessed wherever and whenever it is needed.

Psych Press assessment-based eRecruitment is the world’s only eRecruitment platform that uses predictive analytics to provide recruitment metrics through the whole selection process. The recruiting manager can access all of these metrics on one dashboard and have candidates stack-ranked by competencies. The selection process uses psychometric testing and online interviewing to quickly and accurately show which candidates are best suited to the position in real time. Candidates are treated to a quicker and more pleasing recruitment process because the whole recruitment process can be completed online. This can benefit candidates that are already working full time or live or work remotely.


Litmos by Callidus Cloud is an award winning LMS that makes training employees, customers and channel partners simple. Litmos is focuses on the corporate and mid-market enterprise but is also suitable for small and mid-sized businesses. Progress and performance can be tracked on an individual basis or in groups and teams. Litmos supports a variety of rich media such as flash and PowerPoint and it includes a HTML editor, assessment editor and survey editor for module building within Litmos. Litmos currently has over 3,000,000 users worldwide across a number of sectors.

 Workable is applicant tracking and recruitment software that allows you to oversee all aspects of the recruitment process remotely. Workable allows you to post jobs to all major job boards simultaneously, manage candidate resumes and set up branded career pages using a simple platform. Workable automatically interfaces with your company Facebook page to increase your audience. Workable also provides a customizable job application form so you can specifically tailor your application forms to suit the needs of your positions.

Indeed is the number one job hunting site on the globe. Indeed aggregates job listings from thousands of websites like company career pages, job boards and staffing firms. More people find work using indeed than any other resource.

Glassdoor is catching up to LinkedIn as the premium site for job posting and recruitment. ‘Glassdoor for Employers’ offers employer branding, recruitment and advertising solutions. Glassdoor also allows you to browse millions of job postings, view employee salaries and read reviews written by employees of the company you are researching.

VR Companies like Sony, Samsung and Microsoft are bringing headset technology to the mainstream in 2016. Although VR technologies are not currently being used in HR there are many exciting possible applications for areas like training, screening and performance management. As these technologies become more common their use in HR will become commonplace. Take a look at Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, if you like tech you’ll be blown away by the possibilities!


Thanks to open source app development it’s only a matter of time before these technologies change HR completely. You never know when the next game-changing technology or resource will emerge so staying up to date with what is out there is worthwhile. Remember, it’s important that you only adopt technologies that will actually benefit you, ask yourself: am I using technology or is technology using me?

To view a demo of Psych Press' Assessment-based eRecruitment which gives you accurate candidate data and reduces your time-to-hire up to 70%...