Competency-based training may still be viewed by some as the latest 'buzzword' but actually it has been around — and operating effectively — for more than two decades. So what exactly are competencies?
This quote from Alan Roberts, President of Shift iQ and founding partner at InSite Systems: "...Competency is a set of knowledge, skills, behaviors, attitudes and characteristics..." sums it up quite efficiently.
Competencies will include soft skills as well as technical skills as these reflect the attitudes and behaviors required to successfully complete various tasks. Competency-based training ensures that employees? professional development is closely related to job performance.
Competencies relate to real-world tasks as opposed to more abstract textbook learning — they assess whether or not someone can achieve a task that is required for their position in an organization. One of the main differences between using competencies as opposed to other forms of summative assessment is that competency-based training sets a benchmark that learners either achieve or fail to achieve. Competency-based assessment is not competitive; learners only have to challenge themselves, not compete with others. Students can work on one skill at a time and can be re-assessed multiple times if necessary.
Tasks or competencies being assessed will vary widely depending on the industry and the employee's position within an organization. A simple example might be for a barista making and serving a cappuccino. Competencies could include the following tasks: taking order and payment, brewing the coffee; steaming the milk, decorating the foam and delivering the coffee to the customer. All these tasks would need to be successfully achieved before the barista could be considered to have met the benchmark. Employers and mentors can devise rubrics to assess whether or not the learner has met the benchmark for each competency. For example, our barista might be given a rating on criteria covering both technical and soft skills: there was an attractive design drawn in the foam, the barista smiled at the customer and engaged him in pleasant small talk, etc. Assessment simply comes down to whether or not the barista is able to perform these tasks successfully.
Best practices for competency-based training will:
Be based on needs assessment
Assure personal performance expectations are clearly aligned with the company's goals
Allow performance evaluation to be linked directly to specific competencies and, if required, to compensation
Offer employers the chance to create a competency profile for hiring purposes
Provide clear benchmarks for learners and make them aware of the criteria they are being assessed on
Provide an industry-specific framework
Facilitate effective planning for future growth and further professional development
Establish clear paths for career progression linked to an organization's succession planning
Advantages of competency-based training
Is related to real-world situations and tailored to on-the-job needs
Is student focused
Allows for self-assessment
Allows learners to proceed at their own pace
Can be customized for any field or industry
Facilitates performance evaluation and management
Disadvantage of competency-based training
The only possible disadvantage is the time required for initial implementation. Employers, HR managers and instructors will need to spend time deciding on the desired competencies and establishing effective assessment tools. However, the ROI for time spent will be huge; once this initial framework is in place, the system will be easy and efficient to operate.
Since competency-based training will be an essential part of professional development and career progression, employers and HR managers will need to maintain an inventory of competencies in their talent database.
Shift iQ offers clients the ability to maintain their competencies in the cloud, thus enabling efficient management of human talent.