Making Competencies More Meaningful using DISC Behavioural Styles


What are Behavioural Competencies?

Behavioural competencies encompass knowledge, skills, attitudes and actions. They help explain whether a specific action or behaviour comes naturally to a person or whether they require lots of focus and energy to complete the action or exhibit the behaviour. In a workplace setting, behavioural competencies for employees are effective in recruitment and development situations. Behavioural competencies help distinguish whether an employee might have a natural aptitude for the types of tasks and responsibilities required in their job role. Employees who have a natural behavioural fit toward competencies are more likely to stay in a job longer and complete tasks more efficiently, translating into more productivity and employee retention.

Examples of Behavioural Competencies

While it’s easy for an employer to seek every behavioural competency for employees, different industries require different types of competencies. Here are some examples:

  • Analytical competencies – may include competencies related to roles that require data analysis or problem-solving.
  • Interpersonal competencies – may include competencies related to working with others, such as communication, listening, and teamwork.
  • Individual competencies – may include competencies related to personal qualities such as stressors, decision-making skills and motivators.
  • Managerial competencies – may include competencies related to leadership or management roles.
  • Role-specific competencies – may include competencies related to specific roles such as sales or administration.

Why are Behavioural Competencies Important?

Behavioural competencies are important when hiring and developing employees. When hiring a new employee, behavioural competencies will help recruiters uncover natural strengths and skills that come naturally to an individual. They will also help recruiters understand areas where a future employee may need support and training. 

Behavioural competencies for employees are also crucial for development. Once an organisation identifies behavioural competencies critical to role success, it can initiate personal development plans to further support and develop the skills of its employees.

When to Use Behavioural Competencies?

There are many situations when behavioural competencies may be helpful to use in your business. 

  • Recruitment
  • Team Development
  • Leadership Development
  • Assessing Staff Potential
  • Coaching


Using behavioural competencies for employees during the recruitment process is an ideal way to understand a candidate’s potential strengths and development areas. Evaluating an individual’s competencies will enable recruiters to find the best or most natural fit for the job role. 

Team Development

Team development is a novel way to use behavioural competencies for employees. When building teams, you can evaluate the competencies held by the team and assess any gaps for future development. It’s also a great way to build high performing teams and group people who complement each other’s strengths. 

Leadership Development

Leadership development is another excellent use for behavioural competencies. Once you identify the successful attributes and competencies required for effective leadership, you can create a list to assess them. Doing this can help leaders identify their natural and non-natural leadership competencies. Furthermore, leaders can use these competencies in leadership development training to help them improve their performance.

Assessing Staff Potential 

Another great use of behavioural competencies is to assess staff potential. Evaluating an employee against competencies required for other roles in the company allows HR professionals to flag employees for career growth. 


Finally, coaching is an ideal situation to use behavioural competencies. Competencies are beneficial when coaching individuals to reach their goals. Coaches can use the insights to understand what’s holding their clients back and how to leverage their strengths. The client can also establish crucial points in their development strategy using the insights from a behavioural competency assessment.

How to Assess Behavioural Competencies

Below are some of the most effective ways to assess behavioural competencies:

  1. Self-Assessment: 

    A self-assessment based on the company standard is an excellent way to assess behavioural competencies. A self-assessment allows employees to reflect on their performance and consider methods to improve. However, self-assessments should never be utilised in isolation. A manager or peer assessment offers a complete picture of an employee’s ability.

  2. DISC Assessment: The most effective and efficient way to measure a behavioural competency is with a DISC behavioural assessment. Respondents complete an 8-10 minutes questionnaire that analyses their DISC personality style. The behavioural competency profiling tool then compares the person’s results against specific behavioural competencies that match a job role. The intelligent algorithm then grades the competencies on a behaviour rating scale from -5 to 0 or 0 to +5. A grade below -1 means this competency would require more energy. A score from -1 to 1 implies an individual can develop the competency comfortably. A score of 2 or more means this competency requires very little energy from the individual. These scores do not mean an existing or future employee is not capable. It is not a “can or cannot” do scale. It simply reports on whether the employee requires more or less energy when using particular behavioural competency. 

  3. Manager Assessment: 

    When referring to manager assessments, we don’t mean the manager scores the employee as this provides a biassed and limited perspective. Instead, months of observation should form the basis of the manager’s assessment. One method is to have the employee undertake a project directly related to their behavioural abilities. Once that project is finished, the manager will be able to assess how the employee demonstrated the ability in consideration objectively. This is an excellent practice to form the foundation for personal and professional development.

  4. Peer Assessment: 

    Another effective way to assess behavioural competencies is with peer assessments or 360 feedback assessments. In these situations, an employees’ colleagues, managers and direct reports may be approached to provide feedback to their co-workers. This assessment may involve the employee’s co-workers rating the employee by the company standard established in the competency model.

What is a Behavioural Competency Framework?

You probably work in an organisation that has spent a lot of time, effort, and money identifying and defining particular competencies needed to succeed in specific job positions. It is even quite possible that you were involved in developing the Competency Framework as a Consultant or HR Practitioner. Typically, a Behavioural Competency Framework consists of a breakdown of measurable skills required to perform a particular role in the organisation. Additionally, competencies are often used for training by converting competencies to learning objectives.

The successful extensive use of the competency models has demonstrated that they can work very well. At the same time, you have probably seen models that are very confusing at best. Some of the competencies on the surface sound impressive, but in practice, leave the employees wondering if their organisation has completely lost all sense of reality and reason. In such cases, the models are ignored by the employees and have no impact in positively affecting their behaviour.

However, whether or not the competencies are well designed, one thing is sure: the competencies do not mean the same thing for every employee and all of them have their unique challenges in meeting them.

Behavioural Competency Framework Example

Take Gabrielle and Luca, for example. They are both successful Regional Managers at a large financial services company. While there certainly are some aspects of their jobs that are different – most notably the different kinds of employees they manage and the unique interpersonal minefields they consequently have to navigate – essentially they are performing the very same jobs. Their performance is evaluated against the same criteria, and they both report to the same boss.

Part of Gabrielle and Luca’s evaluation criterion is how well they perform against the 35 competencies that have been developed for the organisation’s Regional Managers. One of those competencies is:

‘Foresees issues and challenges and resolves them before anyone else sees a problem in the making.’

While we could certainly agree or disagree about the merits of this particular competency, let’s focus on how Gabrielle and Luca deal with this one.

Gabrielle has been a Regional Manager for over two years. She was rather quickly promoted from a Branch Manager to Regional Manager as she quickly developed a reputation of getting things done fast. In fact, her assertive demeanour gained her a reputation of being able to turn around poorly performing branches. If there was a mess to be cleaned, Gabrielle was the person for the job. However, her direct, even blunt, behavioural style did not make her popular. But she was respected and perhaps, also feared.

Luca’s reputation is very different. Although his physical presence was somewhat intimidating because of his tall and fit physique, he was well-known for being a very loyal and fair team player. While Luca frustrated some of his employees because of his deliberate and cautious approach, he was liked by all. Like Gabrielle, Luca was well respected. 

So how do Gabrielle and Luca approach this particular competency? What are their unique challenges?

Competency Analysis 

When Gabrielle foresees a problem, she already has a solution. She trusts her instincts entirely and confidently begins to implement the course of action she is confident will take care of the issue. The only problem Gabrielle perceives in these situations is that others simply do not share her sense of urgency. In Gabrielle’s mind, they just move too slowly.

When Luca is faced with a problem, his reaction is often quite different. While he typically comes up with a solution very quickly, Luca usually begins to second-guess himself. “Maybe I need to think about this a little more”, he often says to himself. “The solution cannot be this simple.” Luca would then begin to think about the issue from almost every possible angle until the problem had grown, become complicated and intimidating in his mind. Luca often then becomes stressed.

Gabrielle and Luca are faced with the same situation that calls for the execution of the same competency. Yet their reactions are very different. Gabrielle shoots first then aims. Luca aims, re-aims, and then aims again.

So, how can we help both Gabrielle and Luca?


Many of our clients take a straightforward yet efficient approach. They make their competencies more specific and individual by taking into account how the different behavioural styles can more effectively address and implement them. Simply put, they add a DISC behavioural style dimension to each of their behaviourally-based competencies. By doing so, they can more meaningfully guide their different DISC styles of employees to succeed. 

For example, for Gabrielle, the additional guidance to address this competency is: Remember that sometimes the first solution is not the best.

For Luca, it is: Try not to overestimate the challenges and problems.

Of course, our clients have similar guidance provided to their other styles of employees. As a result, the competencies are more specific and meaningful. Employees now understand what they mean to ME.

Next time you review the competencies you have established for your employees, you may want to consider the implication they have on the different DISC profile types of employees. By doing so, you will guide them on the right path and equip them to perform their jobs better. The best part is that the competencies will have a more specific and practical meaning to your employees. As a result, the behaviours will begin to positively change.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Behavioural Competency Based Interview

Behavioural job interview questions are founded on the assumption that previous behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour – which is why employers frequently use them when evaluating applicants during a job interview. Typically, competency-based interview questions begin with the sentence, “Tell me about a time when…” These interview questions are based on the idea that past behaviour can predict future action.

Difference Between Behaviours and Competencies

Competencies and behaviours are key concepts related to job performance and evaluation. 

  • A competency is the ability to do something through a combination of observable and measurable skills, knowledge and abilities of an individual. 
  • Behaviour is the way a person acts or conducts themselves. 

A behavioural competency is a combination of these two concepts. They explain how natural a competency is and how they are likely to behave while enacting that competency. 

What Competencies Does HR Profiling Solutions Measure?

At HR Profiling we provide over 1600 competencies group into 21 categories. The range of competencies enables recruiters and HR professionals to create a customised overview of a candidates natural abilities in relation to the job role. Explore our range of competency categories below: 

  1. Administration
  1. Behaviour Under Pressure
  1. Business Coaching
  1. Change Management
  1. Communication
  1. Communication/Listening
  1. Customer Service
  1. Data Management
  1. Decision Making
  1. Entrepreneur
  1. Goal-Orientation
  1. Healthcare
  1. Industrial Secruity
  1. Influencing
  1. Learning Styles
  1. Member Services
  1. Motivating Work Environment
  1. Parenthood
  1. People Management
  1. Project Management
  1. Quality Management
  1. Relationship – Dating
  1. Relationship – Stable
  1. Restaurant / Kitchen
  1. Restaurant / Waiter
  1. Retail
  1. Sales
  1. Skills Development
  1. Specialist
  1. Sports – Coach
  1. Sports – Team Sports
  1. Sports / Coachability
  1. Strategy Development
  1. Stress / Cause of Stress
  1. Stress / Signs of Stress
  1. Stress / Stress Release
  1. Subordinate
  1. Supporting Others
  1. Systems Development
  1. Team
  1. Team Management
  1. Telesales
  1. Time Management
  1. Trainer