The global skills and competency framework for the digital world

How SFIA works

At the core of SFIA are the descriptions of professional skills and generic attributes each using the same 7-level structure. These form SFIA's most valuable resource. The generic attributes describe both behavioural factors and the knowledge component of competence. This section describes how it all fits together to form a simple, yet powerful, and proven approach.

7 levels of responsibility

The seven levels provide the backbone of SFIA. The skills and competencies are described at the levels at which they are found to be practiced within the working world. The generic attributes which contain behavioural factors and knowledge statements are described at each of the seven levels. These combine to provide a common language to describe levels of responsibility across roles in all the professional disciplines represented in SFIA. 

The two distinct areas, behaviours and skills, can be applied and assessed separately. They can also be combined to reflect that the successful exercising of a skill or competency at a particular level is dependent on possessing and applying behavioural, knowledge and generic attributes as the same or very similar level. For example, an individual asked to perform a skill or competency as level 6 will not be able to do this effectively if their level of influence or autonomy is only at level 3.

The SFIA Framework consists of seven levels of responsibility from Level 1, the lowest, to Level 7, the highest. 

The levels are precisely written to be progressive, distinct and consistently described. The levels are described using the behaviours, values, knowledge and characteristics that an individual should have in order to be identified as operating at the level.

Each of the seven levels is also labelled with a guiding phrase to summarise the level of responsibility.

Generic attributes underpin the levels of responsibility

The levels of responsibility are characterised by generic attributes which describe behavioural factors such as, collaboration, communication, creativity, decision making, execution performance, influence, leadership, learning and professional development, planning, problem solving and security, privacy and ethics. The generic attributes are:

  • Autonomy
  • Influence
  • Complexity
  • Business skills
  • Knowledge

The definitions of the seven levels describe the behaviours, values, knowledge and characteristics that an individual should have in order to be identified as competent at the level.

The breakdown of each level of responsibility can be found in the levels of responsibility section. SFIA Level 1 is shown here as an example.

SFIA level 1 generic attributes

Professional skills

SFIA provides a detailed descriptions for more than 120 professional skills. Each professional skill provides a skill description, guidance notes and a description of the skill at each relevant level of responsibility.

  • The consistency of the levels of responsibility carries forward into the professional skills.
  • A description of a skill at a level is written so that it is consistent with the level of responsibility at that level.

This approach ensures the consistency of the levels throughout the whole framework, making it solid and robust. It also integrates behaviours/behavioural factors and professional skills at a level combining to describe overall responsibility, accountability and impact.

Professional skills and generic attributes work together

The levels of responsibility, and specifically their generic attributes, are used together with the professional skills to describe overall competence.

Each skill description comprises an overall definition of the skill, some guidance notes and a description of the skill at each of up to seven levels at which the skill might be exercised.  These descriptions provide a detailed definition of what it means to practice the skill at each level of responsibility.

SFIA skill example DGFS