Competency Based Training


Even though Competency Based Training (CBT) is a concept that has been around for decades, it has only recently gained mainstream attention for both its effectiveness and ability to create competitive advantage through human talent. Many organisations claim to have fully implemented competency based training models, but the reality is that few do. This is because significant time and resources must go into developing and maintaining a fully functioning competency based training programs. It truly takes years for a dedicated team of HR and Learning and Development managers to create and deploy organisation-wide competency based training. While the undertaking is significant, there are still many examples of organisations that have taken practices of competency based training to develop talent and exceed organizational targets.

What is ‘Competency based training’?

Before we define and explain competency based training, let’s break it down to define ‘competency’. The term competency refers to individual characteristics that contribute to acceptable or outstanding performance.

Competencies can be anything from a set of knowledge, skills, behaviours, attitudes and characteristics that lead to producing distinguished results. Competencies lie at the core of successful performers so it is important to understand that the analysis of high-achieving talent is one way to identify competencies that allow success over others.

Breaking it down further, there are different categories of competencies such as functional competencies, personal competencies and business competencies. Functional competencies are applicable technical knowledge or skills that are needed for a particular field or profession. For example, accountants require different functional competencies than engineers or electricians. The second group of competencies is personal competencies, which are individual attitudes and skills required to maintain professional relationships and personally develop and learn. An example of a personal competency would be one’s communication skills or the ability to prioritize commitments. The final group of competencies is business competencies wherein individuals have the ability to view problems or situations through a business lens; for example, strategic or critical financial thinking.

What is competency based training then? According to the National Skills Centre of Australia, “competency based training is a structured approach to training and assessment that is directed toward achieving specific outcomes. It is about assisting individuals to acquire skills and knowledge so they are able to perform a task to a specified standard under certain conditions”. Thus, in competency based training, a performer’s expected outcomes must be clearly stated so that the learner knows exactly what is expected of them. Similarly for competency based trainers, once competencies are assigned to learners, the trainer will know the precise training and leaning that is required to bring the learner to a desired level of competency.

Bringing the aforementioned all together, organisational aim is then to create competency models for specific functional roles that contribute to company-wide strategic goals. Competency models are a set of typically 10-30 competencies that define the capabilities of successful performers. To derive competency models it is key to focus on performers who have been highly successful in the roles for which competency models are created.

To do this, create profiles of exemplary performers and be sure to define their effectiveness based on measureable abilities and traits. Once competency models are created it is then easier to identify gaps in your talents’ behavioural or work outputs. Being able to identify these gaps is the first step in bringing talent to a level of competency that creates competitive advantage.

By an iQualify UK staff writer