Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors which support meeting the expectations of our roles. Competencies provide a means of communicating and striving to achieve the type of culture we aspire to at Amherst. While there may be additional behaviors specific to your role or area at the college, these Staff Core Competencies are intended to be broad and apply to all staff. 

The Staff Core Competencies are: Accountability, Collaboration, Communication, Continuous Learning, Position Specific and Technical Knowledge, Inclusiveness, and Supervisory Skills. We encourage you to consider these competencies when drafting goals for the year ahead and considering areas of growth for yourself and if you are a supervisor, for your staff. Consider where you are in each, how you might deepen skills and abilities pertaining to that competency, and what you need to learn to do so. 

Competency Benchmarks are used in the Annual Review portion of the Performance Management Process to reflect on how the competencies were demonstrated in the prior year. Remember, competencies relate to how work was done, not what work was completed. The Competency Benchmarks are as follows: 

Does Not DemonstrateFoundationalStrongAdvanced
No understanding of the competency, does not apply the competency in the workplace. Basic understanding of the competency, sometimes demonstrates the ability to apply it in the workplace. Demonstrates an understanding of and consistent ability to apply the competency in most situations in the workplace.Thorough understanding of the competency, demonstrates the ability to apply the competency creatively in the most complex and challenging situations 

Remember, competencies are not "achieved" as much as they are developed upon. This is a frequent point of confusion—the distinction between being “competent” and a “competency.” In other words, “competency” has to do with the ability to do something successfully or efficiency. “A competency” is the combination of demonstrable characteristics and skills that enable and improve. 

For the full details on the Performance Management Process (PMP), including the Annual Review flow and process, please visit our PMP page.

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Competency Definitions and Example Behaviors

If we think of job descriptions as describing “what” we each do, competencies help us understand “how” we are expected to do it.

Click on the arrow next to each of the competencies below to learn how it is being defined and to see examples of behaviors which may demonstrate each competency as well as provide indications for growth.

History and Background of our Staff Core Competencies

The 2017 Staff Survey indicated a strong desire to shift the Performance Management Process (PMP) towards one that is simpler, more meaningful, and more transparent. The Performance Management Working Group (PMWG) was put together to help determine the best path forward.  Based on recommendations of the PMWG, modifications were made to the PMP. The 2020 Staff Survey indicated that while we were moving in the right direction with the changes that had been implemented, we still had work to do.

Informed by research of best practices in performance management across a number of peer institutions, a recommendation of the PMWG was to introduce streamlined competencies as a means for creating the opportunity for meaningful feedback and directed growth.

In 2022, the Staff Core Competencies were incorporated to the Performance Management Process. These new competencies which stemmed directly out of the previous use of 25 Performance Factors are shorter in length, more robust in definition, and directly linked to the culture we aspire to at Amherst College.

While the Staff Core Competences were introduced in the Performance Management Process, numerous other colleges and universities also use competencies as the foundation for performance management, training and development, succession planning, career planning, and hiring. As we continue to work towards a highly engaging staff culture that offers high levels of retention and opportunities for growth, we will be further incorporating these core competencies throughout our processes.


Supervisory Competencies

In 2023, additional competencies were built within the Supervisory Skills competency which better reflect the desires expressed though listening sessions and assessment to clarify supervisory expectations at the College. These changes are used to guide supervisory development and are not part of the Performance Management Process. The change breaks out the Supervisory Skills competency into five supervisory-specific competencies. Note: this competency only applies to those who supervise staff at the College. 

Supervisory Competencies (click on each competency to expand and view example behaviors):