Previous scholars considered competence a ‘fuzzy concept’ and addressed confusions such as ‘competency vs. competence’ and ‘competence vs. core competence’. However, the issue ‘What is the essence of employee competence?’ remains unclear. By inference, the essence of competence is addressed in adoption of an organization's sustained competitive advantage viewpoint different from the traditional viewpoint of enhancing individual employability. This paper contends that employee competence is strategically driven by organizational core competence. Psychologically, employee competence and organizational core competence are similar and linked in terms of person–organization fit and person–job fit. A contextual competence framework is established enlightening the essence of employee competence and redefines competence as a ‘temporary asset’ rooted in the interactively organizational context.Contextual variables including shared values, mutual trust and mutual investment bolster the alignment between employee competence and organizational core competence and develop employee competence as firm-specific, thus becoming a source for sustained organizational competitive advantage.
Journal of Management & Organization 16(5), pp.677-699