Competence Management Systems – a Guide

This is a system by which the competence of individuals is measured against set standards or competencies. By definition therefore, before competence can be measured the standards must have been defined.

The Standards could be National Standards such as NVQs or VRQs in the UK (view the NOS – the UK’s National Occupational Standards database for examples), or bespoke in-house standards within an organisation. For the standards to work effectively they should consist of at least two key components:

  • Performance Criteria;
  • Knowledge and Understanding Criteria;

Performance Criteria

These are the things that the person being measured against and should be able to do (or perform) as a part of ‘being competent’.

The standards should explicitly state the tasks a person should be able to complete, along with the range of circumstances that they should perform under, in order for competent performance to be measured.

A person who can do the job may not necessarily be deemed as competent. To be measured as competent, the person must both be able to perform the required tasks to the standard under the range of circumstances AND have the required knowledge and understanding as indicated in the Learning Outcomes. The competent person may just be repeating what they have seen done without knowing or understanding the consequences of what they may or may not do, hence the need to measure both performance and knowledge in order to assess competence. The competent person will also know where their responsibilities start and finish and when they need to advise someone else.

Knowledge and Understanding Criteria

These state what a competent person ‘should know’, i.e. the knowledge and understanding that underpins the role and supports competence.

The standards should also explicitly state the level, depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding.

It is important to state that knowledge and understanding are not the same thing as a person may know about something they need to do yet not understand the reason why they do it that way.

Assessment Methods

These are how we go about measuring the Performance and/or Knowledge and Understanding Criteria and refer to: Observation of Real Work, Observation of Work in a Simulated Work Environment, Examination of Products of Work (the results of the work activity), Professional Discussions, Oral Questioning, Written Questions, Exams, Skills Tests, Projects, Assignments, Candidate Report (Learner Statement), Witness Testimonies etc.

The most appropriate Assessment Method depends upon the criteria being assessed.

All assessments should make use of a minimum of two of these assessment methods i.e. to take a Candidate Report on its own is not sufficient and should be back up with other forms of evidence e.g. Witness Testimony, Products of Work, etc.  There will also be the need to have something that relates to PERFORMANCE evidence and something to KNOWLEDGE/UNDERSTANDING evidence.

Who is involved in the Competence Management System?

For a Competence Management System to work effectively, trained and preferably accredited (qualified) people need to take on specific roles regardless of whether the Competence Management System is designed to measure accredited qualifications, those offered via an Awarding Body such as City & Guilds, ILM, OCR, Edexcel, etc. through and Awarding Centre (the organisation operating the Competence Management System e.g. The Gill Payne Partnership Ltd) or a system designed to measure bespoke in-house standards.

The table below identifies the people involved in either Competence Management System:

Competence Management System for Accredited Qualifications Competence Management System for In-House Standards
Internal Roles Candidate Internal Roles Candidate
  Assessor   Assessor
  Internal Quality Assurer   Internal Quality Assurer
External Roles External Quality Assurer

These roles can be explained as:


This is the person under measurement or assessment.


This is the person who inducts, supports and assesses the Candidate, makes a judgement about their performance and/or knowledge against the standards. This person would themselves ideally be accredited i.e., have achieved a recognised qualification as an Assessor appropriate to the types of assessment being carried out.

This person must also be occupationally competent in the area that they are assessing up to at least the level being assessed in order to make a judgement about others competence.

Internal Quality Assurer (IQA)

This is the person responsible for supporting the assessors and ensuring that what should have happened has, maintaining the integrity of the system and ergo, assuring the quality of the assessors work and decisions.

This role has also been referred to as the Internal Verifier in the past.

Sometimes there will be a designated Lead Internal Quality Assurer whose role also coordinates all the IQAs, oversees the quality assurance process and works with the External Quality Assurer in the case of an Accredited Qualifications Competence Management System.

Ideally, the IQAs will comes from the ranks of the Assessors thereby, having and understanding of assessment from a first-hand position and would have achieved a recognised Internal Quality Assurer qualification.

External Quality Assurer (EQA)

This is the person responsible for ensuring that the Accredited Qualifications’ Competence Management System within the Awarding Centre is fit for purpose in line with the requirements of the Awarding Body who they work for; for supporting the IQAs and for communicating the requirements of the Awarding Body.

They in effect ‘police’ the Accredited Qualifications Competence Management Systems in the Awarding Centres accredited by the Awarding Bodies.

This role has also been referred to as the External Verifier in the past.

Advantages of an Effective Competence Management System

An effective system will provide reassurance to the organisation that the right people possess the right skills required for the job role; that they will operate in a manner which is safe to people, plant and the organisation; it will generate longer term employee engagement; improve employee commitment and reduce waste.

An organisation that can also prove to its customer base that its people are competent will increase the confidence of the customer based in the organisation. The same ‘increased confidence’ applies to regulatory organisations that oversee the operation of the organisation.

Recording Competence

There should be some form of database within the Competence Management System to record who is working towards, achieved or not yet achieved the competence required in their job role or the role they are working towards.

This could be in the form of a spreadsheet or a more complex relational database.

Whichever method for recording is used the database should record the following as a minimum:

  • The candidate’s name
  • Competency being assessed
  • Date of current assessment
  • Method of Assessment used
  • Who conducted the current assessment
  • Date next assessment due

If you are planning to design and implement a Competence Management System, we would be happy to answer questions that you have about your project or support you directly.

We can also offer a complete service on this including the design of the standards, recording systems, training and accrediting the Internal Quality Assurers and Assessors.