Self-reflection in work competencies evaluation

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Topic of the dissertation

Self-reflection in work competencies evaluation

Doctoral candidate

Master of Economic Sciences Riitta Forsten-Astikainen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Management and International Business

Subject of study

Managing international business


Professor Anna-Maija Lämsä, University of Jyväskylä

Second opponent

Professor Vesa Suutari, University of Vaasa


Professor Matti Muhos, University of Oulu

Visit thesis event

Add event to calendar

Self-reflection and a holistic competency approach – An untapped resource in the workplace

Competency is a contemporary term that is emphasized in societal discussions related to leadership and the workforce. The transformation of work, globalization, digitalization, and the looming labor shortage are driving the need for individuals to reassess their competencies and evaluation methods. Until now, competency assessment related to job roles has primarily focused on the perspective of companies' management and human resources departments, assessing an individual's competencies and performance from the viewpoint of businesses and organizations. Furthermore, this assessment mainly concentrates on an individual's functional and cognitive competencies, often referred to as know/how. However, this perspective is too narrow and does not align with the competency requirements and the identification of required competencies in today's diverse workplace.

This is the assertion of Riitta Forsten-Astikainen in her doctoral thesis, where it was found that there is a need to recognize an individual's competencies as a holistic perspective; a broader examination of competencies, including the identification of the hidden potential related to an individual's humanity and personality, enables the discovery of untapped opportunities to work better or differently. Because competency assessment continues to be top-down from an individual's perspective, it lacks the individual's self-reflection and perspective, and a significant evaluation method remains untapped. This hidden competency potential remains concealed, preventing it from increasing work productivity. Existing literature also supports this view.

Forsten-Astikainen introduces new methods and approaches in her dissertation to examine an individual's self-reflective capacity and models that support reflection. The background for this is the so-called holistic competency approach, which emphasizes that competency is not limited to a narrow know/how mindset but is related to a broader context, attitudes, and abilities. It emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of the individual, considering various elements of competency and their interactions. According to the holistic competency approach, competency is tied to broader life and learning without compartmentalization, where learning is continuous development through various experiences.

Through three interrelated articles, Forsten-Astikainen's dissertation is contextually linked to the ongoing discussion about what the transformation of work brings to the workforce. The research findings reinforce the observation that an individual's self-reflection plays a role in competency assessment. The results also demonstrate what it takes from organizations and company management to support self-reflection, what obstacles and challenges individuals face in pursuing self-reflection, and the potential that can be uncovered through self-reflection.

Using a qualitative and interpretative case study approach, the research reveals the possibilities and limitations of self-reflection. It is challenging for individuals to reflect on their competency without concept maps and lists. Few can recognize their internal potential or talent and connect their abilities to relevant competencies. The dissertation highlights how various methods can create insights for individuals about their potential and opportunities to work better or differently.

On a practical level, Forsten-Astikainen's dissertation takes a stance against the common practice of businesses and human resource departments assessing competency too broadly and too much as a given. The dissertation also presents a future-oriented framework related to the holistic understanding of competency, taking into account the new competency requirements of a changing work environment.
Last updated: 23.1.2024