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Annex 9: Capabilities: competencies of individual employees, competences and dynamic capabilities of organisations

To attain high performance, organisations must understand how their resources, routines, structures, systems and processes are brought together and leveraged to support high performance. They must also understand how these organisation-wide mechanisms enable them to adapt and change[2]. The focus here is on ensuring that the skills, knowledge, routines and processes evident within organisations complement one another and enable high performance. It is important to note that, in most cases, the strategic leveraging of capabilities requires a recognition and operationalisation of existing internal strengths rather than building new ones; the key challenge being how to identify, encourage and manage them, highlighting the importance of leaders in enabling and managing capabilities (Pablo et al., 2007).

These capabilities are important foundation elements that underpin the four principles. They encourage organisations to consider what they require at the organisational level in order to deliver on governmental goals and to adapt to a continually changing environment. They also highlight the importance of the competencies required of individuals and highlight the need to manage them systematically.

Various competences are important for the development of high performing organisations. These are identified below:

  • Leadership competence and competencies: Leadership is critical to building a successful high-performance organisation (Porter, Pickering and Brokaw, 1995). Our performance management research identified the following critical competencies: a strategic perspective; effective communication; ability to clearly articulate expectations and organisational / group vision; ability to establish connections within and across organisations; change management; robust decision-making; people management and effective employee engagement and consultation. These combine to develop leadership competence. Our data showed that senior leaders were often focused on the management of underperformance rather than upon setting a framework to support high performance.
  • Management competence and competencies: There are a range of individual managerial competencies as well as managerial routines. What matters is ensuring that managers are capable of implementing effective routines in a way that will support high performance. Core management abilities include translating high-level goals to group and individual levels and facilitating clear alignment. In addition, the ability to establish role and goal clarity, to communicate expectations effectively and to encourage employee involvement in performance management (mutuality) are also important. Supervisors also need to be able to give and receive constructive performance feedback in a timely manner and be willing to undertake difficult performance conversations. Other core competencies include the development of managers’ emotional intelligence, in particular self-awareness. The achievement of high performance requires managers to view performance management as an ongoing responsibility and their core business.
  • Human resource competence and competencies: An integrated human resources system is an essential competence for high performance. Each agency had areas of strength and weakness but all agreed that certain competencies were critical: being able to provide fast, accurate advice; knowing the systems and being able to provide support to managers and employees to follow them; recognising the need to support the agency business; integrating all of the HR elements into an effective system; and being able to develop managers so that they were able to manage performance of all kinds effectively.
  • Employee competencies: The development of employee competencies is critical for high performance. Employee competencies identified included: giving and receiving feedback; the ability to adapt to change; flexibility and agility; resilience; being collaborative; exercising good judgement; political awareness and stakeholder engagement.

[2] For a more detailed discussion on competences (e.g. Prahalad and Hamel, 1990) and dynamic capabilities (e.g. Eisenhardt and Martin 2000; Teece et al., 1997) for further information. An overview is also included in Blackman et. al. (2012: pp.44-47).