Competency-based Training

I would like to know about your experience in implementing Competency-based training in employee skills development. How popular is it in your industry? Was your company performance improved after implementing this training approach?

If you use the traditional training approach, how do you ensure your workforce is competent for the tasks they are assigned to? Do your employees / coworkers feel confident about having the skills and knowledge to perform their tasks?

I am looking forward to implementing a competency-based approach in Aircraft Maintenance technicians training.

Thank you!

13 Replies
Grace Duffy
107 Posts
As Manager of Education for a computer company some years ago, we developed competency matrices for job descriptions to be used during development planning sessions. The supervisor would ask the employee to fill out the matrix based on their level of confidence in exhibiting required skills, knowledge, and aptitudes (KSAs) related to their current position. The supervisor would then meet with the employee to discuss options for training to increase employee KSAs. It was up to the employee to manage their training, unless their performance was assessed as below "meets requirements." The supervisor met with the employee quarterly and made sure they had time to complete the training during working hours. If the employee increased their skills and showed improved outcomes in the current position, the supervisor would recognize that improvement during the annual job performance cycle. The development plan could also be used for career planning, although the matrix was designed to help the employee meet current competency requirements. Competency training is a preferred approach with companies I know. It is almost Just in Time training.

Interesting experience! I´ve never thought about a self-evaluation competency tool. Thank you for sharing Grace!

Have you considered implementing a Demonstration of Capability (DOC) program? Upon hire following training, and annually thereafter, our QC Chemists complete the DOC program. The Assay portion of the program requires them to prepare replicate samples for analysis, generating in-specification and in-trend results that meet prescribed variability specifications. The chemists must prepare all reagents and standards, and the process is repeated for each assay that they are trained to complete. In addition to these Assay DOCs, there are also General DOCs comprised of items such as instrument and calibration and and operation, statistical quality control, and data analysis. Content of the General DOCs varies a bit from year to year, depending on what skills we want to emphasize. The entire program runs for a set period each year, giving the chemists 5 months to complete all testing, analysis, and reporting.

The program has been very successful, and well-received during audits and inspections. While our chemists become cross-trained in all areas of testing, they each tend to have their specialties or areas of focus. The DOC program allows them to demonstrate their competency in all areas of testing on an annual basis, including those that they test less frequently.
We have a training matrix that department supervisors are responsible to maintain. There are some common tasks and department specific tasks. Each person has their own column and the supervisor puts in the date when the person gets trained on those specific tasks. This is also an Internal Audit item, so managers/supervisors don't get complacent with maintaining this. Just an idea, and it works for us. We also have Vivant program for all employees for common annual training requirements, but that is a separate issue for us. Hope this helps.

We also use a competency matrix commonly known as the “Harvey Ball” matrix. The circles show competency by 25, 50, 75 and 100%, with the 25 set for new hires who have had onboarding and new hire training up to the 100% where their knowledge would allow them to train. I say allow because as we all know, not everyone can train, so that is a different skill set. The competency level is graduated by demonstrated skills to perform their job tasks or function. This is a little tougher with salary personnel since everyone wears so many hats and we all do what we need to, to get the job done.

Working in regulated industries like medical devices and pharmaceuticals, employee training is required by regulation. So it is practiced 100%.

My experience is that training is usually implemented through on-line courses. Like PowerPoint style recorded presentations. With competency assessed by means of a follow up quiz, having minimum correct score required to pass. Lab practical demonstrations, and external training companies are also used.

In my group we created a matrix for each employee, and held one-on-one meetings. To combine training needs as assessed by the manager, with training requests desired by the employee. We also asked employees to list their preferred learning style.

Thank you for answering @Ashley Estridge! the DOC program sounds interesting, I will research more about it.

Thank you @Larry Cichelli! definitely it's a good idea to involve department supervisors. Otherwise, only the training/HR department would be pushing for implementing the training courses. What is the Vivant program? Sorry, I am not familiar with it.

Thank you for sharing your experience @Mary Scicluna! the “Harvey ball” matrix looks like a riveting tool for employee competency records.

Thank you @Gordon Perry! I know what you mean, aviation is a regulated industry too. I liked your competency matrix and one-on-one meetings experience.

@Anastasis Alayon thank you for Liking and commenting on each response you have received! This is very considerate of you, to acknowledge those who have taken their time and provided their expertise. 🙂

Sorry about responding to this a little bit late.
Just to make sure we are on a level playing field, at my company, we use as our definition of competency based training, training that allows the employee to demonstrate the ability to complete a task or function.

I have been with my company for over eleven years and we have been doing it since I have been with the company.

Our program is based on two parts. Actually taking competency based training, to learn or improve the skills needed to do a task or function AND to evaluate the competency of the employee after the training has been completed. Without the evaluation part, we find it is nearly impossible to determine the effectiveness of the competency based training, thus we cannot determine if there is an ROI for the company.

We have four levels for evaluating the competency of the employee after taking training.
Level 1. The employee provides feedback as to the effectiveness of that training. In other words, after they have taken the training, do they feel competent to accomplish the task. For example, they have taken a class on how to quality control fiber optic cable installations. Do they feel that the training taken has provided them with the necessary skills to conduct that task.
Level 2. They have taken training that requires a test, be it knowledge feedback (written test) or a skills test. For example, someone takes training to be an auditor and successfully passes the CQA exam. Someone is trained to drive a forklift and the instructor has them demonstrate forklift-driving skills. For external training, we require either a certificate or an exam result. For internal training, we require either an exam result or the instructor's evaluation of the skills learned for the individual.
Level 3. Upon completing training, the individual is evaluated for competence by his/her immediate supervisor and/or mentor. This normally takes three to six months of observation to ensure that the skills/behaviors learned are being used AND being used effectively. Is the training taken to prevent electrostatic discharge being followed by the technician. Is the person doing soldering, meeting IPC J-STD-001, that they received a certificate in six months earlier.
Level 4. This almost takes it above the competency based training realm. And it is the most difficult to assess. This is the results/effect on the business or environment resulting from the trainee's new/improved skill sets. This may take a significant amount of time; a year or more to determine. Can we now do a function better, faster, cheaper than before. Are we seeing improved customer satisfaction. Can we expand/diversify our product lines. Can we directly attribute increase in revenue/profit margin to the new/improved skill sets.

Thank you for sharing @Edmond Frost! It's not late at all! I´m really impressed how your company manages the competency-based training and assessment. I find the 4-level employees competency evaluation so interesting and complete, like a 360 assessment.