Competency-based training attempts to utilize knowledge, skills, and abilities from actual job functions in the delivery of training. By following a few broad-based steps, you can implement competency-based training effectively.A competency is a set of knowledge, skills, or abilities (KSA’s) that a worker must use to function on the job.

In recent years, there has been a gradual movement to utilize competencies from job descriptions in training. This competency based training ensures that workers receive only the “need to know” information, versus “nice to know” information. To implement a competency-based approach, it is first necessary to ensure that job descriptions accurately reflect the broad competencies that are expected on the job. Once this foundation is complete, it is much easier to build a competency based training program.

The first step should be to assemble a group of working subject matter experts (SME’s) in the area to be trained. This group should be a mix of high performers, managers, and supervisors. The SME group should then be facilitated into identifying competencies for the group to be trained. Simply put, the SME group can take the business unit as a whole and decide what knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed to function in a particular set of jobs. For example, bank tellers may need competency in basic financial acumen, regulatory knowledge, systems, and customer service.

The SME group can then take each competency and elaborate on all of the knowledge, skills, and abilities in that competency. In financial acumen, bank tellers may need to know basic addition and subtraction, how to complete a deposit slip, and how to instruct a customer to balance his or her checkbook. This is a simple example, but the result of breaking down the competencies gives you the objectives for training. There is a hidden benefit to approaching competency-based training this way: once the competencies are identified and broken down, executive managers can be asked to approve. Getting the involvement of executive managers almost guarantees their buy-in – and makes the training department’s job much easier.

Now that the competencies are identified and broken down, develop training from those individual competencies. Back to the bank teller example: course number one can be a module on basic math, document completion, and checkbook balancing. With that module, you’ve given the bank teller the tools needed to function in the financial acumen competency. Moving through the competencies, and with the SME group approving each set of KSA’s, the training designer is able to ensure that each module is important to the worker’s success on the job.

Measuring competency-based training is accomplished by introducing surveys to line employees and their supervisors. Using our bank teller example, you can survey new employees at a designated interval, usually 45 to 60 days. In the survey, questions should focus on the training objectives, which came directly from the competencies. The survey can ask the new hire tellers if they feel comfortable performing the basic mathematic functions explained in training. Supervisors, on the other hand, can be asked if they have observed the new hire’s ability to perform basic mathematic functions – and what is the new hire’s competency based on a scale. If a majority of new hires report no problems with basic math and their supervisors indicate they have few errors and few questions on the subject, the competency is being trained efficiently. If, on the other hand, there is a level of discomfort and numerous errors, you can go back to the competency itself, the training, or even the training instructor to find the problem.

By implementing a competency-based training program, you are linking training to the job. You are ensuring that trainees are receiving the information they need to function, and not peripheral information with no real impact on job performance. You are also setting up the path to competency-based performance evaluation: if you are certain trainees are being developed based on job- specific competencies, you can use the knowledge, skills, and abilities in those competencies to measure and reward performance.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.