Theoretical Background

The concept of competence stems from Taylor’s “Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911 [19]. Through the scientific analysis of work, and particularly the observation of the time and motion of the most competent workers, Taylor was committed to identify the one best way to complete each task and to transform it into a patter that should be observed by every worker. The objective was to guarantee worker competence and, consequently, to improve the organizational efficiency [19, 20].

Until the 1970s, corporate management was dominated by the logic of continuous mass production, supported by the manual control of manufacturing through the use of the called “craft” skills. This resulted in great specialization, division of labour into small tasks, and control management hierarchy [5]. From this decade onwards, workforce globalization and customer orientation have created the need for companies to rely on multifaceted workers, who are able to adapt quickly to market demands. The production cycle has become shorter, and the responsibility for the manufacturing process has been transferred to the workers themselves [5]. These changes in the organization’s operation scheme have led to the fact that people management is no longer centred on function but rather on the individual himself, on his flexibility and ability to adapt to change [1]. In this context, the personal skills and attitudes that will help individuals to adapt to changes and to the new demands in the workplace have assumed great importance [21].

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