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Understanding the basics of competency-based training

Hiring talent is the first task of any HR department. Once this is accomplished however, the trickier part begins. Competency based training is the key in making sure that every talented individual receives the training they need since their levels of knowledge and skill vary, as do their learning preferences and speeds.

Unlike content-based training, competency centric learning places the trainee in the middle of everything.

Adult learners need to be able to move through courses at their own pace and if possible at their own convenience. As long as they can tackle the content in a flexible manner the information transfer is greatly improved. Skating through information that is already familiar and being able to spend more time and effort on new useful knowledge ultimately leads to more efficient learning.

What’s important is how much the employee learns, not how many hours they spend doing so. This brings us to the first step in putting together a good competency-based program: a change in measurement.

It’s about how much is learned

Time is the most precious commodity we have and in today’s corporate world with everything happening at once with astounding speed it even appears to be shrinking. If an employee can decide what task is most important and what can wait, why shouldn’t they also be able to make the call as to what learning module would help most at a certain point?

The focus of any competency-based learning program ought to be transferring content into day to day performance.

Learners should pick what units are important to them both on account what skills they already have and what challenges they are presented with at work at a certain time. Some chapters may be skipped and others only browsed through but as long as the learners have good results both in the training tests and on their jobs it means the program is efficient.

It’s a way of ensuring personalized learning in an easy and cost-effective way. The best method of achieving this is taking learning online.

E-learning makes it easier

Unless you design your classroom courses in conference or TED Talks formats, it’s impossible for employees to pick what units are important to them and what is irrelevant at a certain point.

You can’t have people going in and out of the room in the traditional version of training but e-learning allows for learners to login and logout, go through one or more modules, participate in assessments and take tests without being disruptive to anyone.

It’s easy to adapt the training and development plan to the needs of the learner and get immediate feedback on what works and what requires improvement. Cost-wise it is also more efficient than old-fashioned training programs as it can reach larger numbers of trainees and apart from the initial investment it has pretty low maintenance costs.

There is the downside of not having face to face and group interaction but with the aid of social media platforms and forums, discussions can be easily encouraged and the social component of learning brought into the program.

Matching competency with company objectives

The success of any learning and development program is given by how well it supports organizational objectives. It is highly important for L&D departments to be aware of what the company goals are, how they change and what is needed from them to optimally achieve those.

In order to stay on top of this, it is best if management is somehow involved from the early stages of developing learning paths and objectives. They know best what competencies they need on their teams and getting their buy-in for the learning program will ensure better engagement rates once it is put into action.

Training is one of the most important support functions in a company and if it wants to be effective it needs to constantly get feedback from all the parties involved and adapt to the changing requirements. Assessment of the learning program should not stop at the online testing but go further into the actual workplace.

Competency-based training is all about transferring knowledge into palpable business results.

Trainee-centric learning

With classroom training, the pace is mainly set by the trainer. Some participants may get bored, some may feel that not enough focus was given to a topic that is important to them.

With competency-based learning, on the other hand, the center of the process is the trainee.

This is what instructional designers have to keep in mind when they begin working on a competency-based learning program. Having bite-sized modules of crucial information is as important as offering links and free access to a number of resources for those who feel they need to learn more on a particular subject.

It’s also great if the extra resources come in a number of different formats: videos, infographics, extensive PDFs or scholarly studies, as learning styles and preferences vary greatly. This way the course dynamics may be different with every learner taking it, based on his unique needs, experiences and goals.

Ultimately, this should be the purpose of every corporate learning program: be able to adapt to individual needs in order to optimally develop the competencies necessary to achieve organizational goals.

MATRIX White paper: Enhancing skill development using competency-based training