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   Shift from skill building to performance improvement and competence development
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  The emphasis on high-performance work implies a shift from isolated skill building to performance improvement [R16]. Several surveys underpin this trend of competence development:
The need for 'new' competences has been stressed by employers emphasising the need for more social competences and non-technical personal competences. Expectations of many employers have shifted to a broader understanding of abilities and competences both of employees and of job-applicants. Often they expected more self-responsible work and competences suitable for adapting to new work environments and for coping with organisational change [E09].
Most organisations, both large and small,  have a global skills system which is very closely tailored to fit their specific product and process mix, and they train internally to this model [E01a]. 
Employers are far more interested in how ‘soft’ skills and competences are represented than in how formal qualifications are accredited. Companies have a real need for skills that facilitate ‘just-in-time’ learning, the development and utilisation of ‘organisational memory’, and the incorporation of client feedback [E01a] [E01b] . 
Management of competencies and derived variants are core issues in HRM developments. As two large companies show, the personal competence profile of each individual is used for skills development purposes and for career development. To keep the individual employee optimal employable is the major challenge [E01c]. 
Many companies expect that in future the overall demand for employee qualifications and skills will change. Above all an increase in general qualifications such as social and methodological skills is considered necessary. A large number of companies assume that their employees will be more specialised in the future. A reduction in the amount of specialisation on the other hand is rather rarely anticipated [E02b]. 
There is a distinction between individual competence and collective competence. Education and training seem to privilege individual competence. In the UK, and probably other countries, certificates of competence in work-related skills are awarded to trainees, not work groups. But if we look at knowledge and skills that are useful in a work situation, these have somehow become collective competencies [V09]. 
A study in the UK has revealed that the needs and opportunities of developing competences are closely related to the type of work organisation. While companies pursuing work-intensive/ Taylorist strategies tend to promote non-transferable skills, companies favouring multi-skilling/ anthropocentric strategies provide a context for encouraging cognitive skills, job enrichment and increased commitment. The transfer of employees between different types of organisations will pose problems for individual competence development [V01].
A case study on the use of implicit competences among Portuguese women shows that learning starts out from life context and not only from work. Women tend to be more occupied with life competences while men concentrate on work competences. Women can capitalise on learning intensive work [V05].

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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO