Competency management is an idea that was developed in the private sector and transposed to the public sector during the 1990s. First this article examines the concept of competency‐based management, its claimed advantages over traditional approaches to personnel management and the problems associated with its use. Second, it describes and analyses the extent of its use in the British civil service based on an empirical survey of 130 civil service departments and agencies carried out in February 2000. Third, it looks in detail at the way that five civil service organisations have developed, and are using, holistic approaches to competency management. Finally, it concludes that although the approach to introducing competency management has, up to now, been fragmented, ad hoc and pragmatic central government pressure to adopt benchmarking and Investors in People personnel strategies is resulting in a more holistic practice of competency‐based management throughout the civil service.
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