What Is Competency-Based Training?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Competency-based training is an effective way to support your team through professional development that’s tailored to their specific needs. Learn more about competency-based training, what its benefits are, and how to implement it in the workplace.

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To train new employees as part of the onboarding process, many businesses use a comprehensive training strategy where skills are taught only once and as part of a larger training session.

While this method is effective for getting new hires ready for their new roles quickly, employees may only partially retain some of the information provided. One way to address any skill gaps that may arise over time is through competency-based training.

Read more about competency-based training, what it’s used for, its benefits, and how to implement a competency-based training framework in your business.

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What is competency-based training?

Competency-based training is a training method built around a specific skill, or competency, that an employee needs to learn in order to meet the expectations of their role. Unlike comprehensive training, which covers a broad topic in general terms, competency-based training focuses on one specific skill within smaller modules. Often, the employee needs to demonstrate mastery or complete understanding of a skill before they advance to the next module. Once a set of modules is successfully completed, the employee typically receives a certificate that shows they have mastered a specific skill.

Competency-based training is tailored to an employee’s specific needs. The employee is offered the chance to learn at their own pace as part of their larger workday. This method allows employees to advance quickly through modules they might have previous experience with while allowing hires without the same background to focus on developing new skills.

Types of competency-based training

Because competency-based training tailors to employees’ specific needs and goals, there is a wide range of competency-based training options. Some include:

  • Workplace communication training

  • Completing the steps of a task, such as running a program correctly

  • Creating and presenting a sales pitch

  • Managing a project from creation to implementation

  • Online course modules on analytical skills, workplace conflict, or other professional development skills

What is competency-based training used for?

Competency-based training helps employers determine if employees have the right skill set to complete their assigned tasks and grow into more advanced roles. It’s focused on helping employees develop practical skills and knowledge rather than abstract concepts. It provides businesses with the tools needed to effectively evaluate if their employees have the skills needed to grow and thrive in their roles and then provide valuable training opportunities for when skill gaps arise.

The basics of competency-based training

To create an effective competency-based training framework, keep these basic principles in mind:

  • Learner-focused: Competency-based training works best when it prioritizes the learner’s needs and goals. This means that an effective framework offers the learner opportunities to work with others, learn at their own pace, demonstrate mastery of skills, and feel supported in professional development as they grow in their role.

  • Designed with specific skills in mind: Instead of choosing learning modules based on general workplace skills, an effective framework uses unique and tailored modules that focus on practical skills your employees need to thrive in your industry. This means taking the time to think about what skill gaps your employees might encounter in your workplace and addressing those.

  • Outcome-based: To maximize the effectiveness of competency-based training, its key that employees demonstrate mastery over a skill before advancing to the next course. Using analytics to track progress is helpful for employees to see how far they’ve come. Plus, employees who demonstrate mastery typically feel more confident in their skills and are more eager to continue to learn.

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Benefits of competency-based training

The benefits of a competency-based training program are wide-ranging and often improve the workplace for both employees and employers. For example, employees who undergo competency-based training receive concrete and transparent professional development goals, which helps them to track their own growth and helps them to become partners in skills advancement. It encourages employees to become proactive in their own learning, which increases morale and job satisfaction. Competency-based training is less overwhelming than comprehensive training, which means more information is retained and applied.

Employers often see the benefits of competency-based training through cost savings and increased productivity. Since this training focuses on specific skill sets, an employer can spend money on more targeted and effective training opportunities. Because competency-based training is designed to support an employee and their own timeline, it’s more easily integrated into a workday versus the need to pull an entire department away from their tasks for an all-day training.

How to implement competency-based training

To successfully implement a competency-based training framework, there are a few steps you can follow. 

  • Make a list of the goals you have for your employees and company and which skill sets are necessary to meet those goals. 

  • Conduct a skills analysis. Doing so helps to identify places where employees would benefit from targeted skills development, making the entire training system more effective and efficient.

  • Choose how you will offer training opportunities, either through options like online modules or through the creation of a training program that involves steps like completing a presentation. 

  • Create a system for monitoring and tracking employee module completion and include chances to recognize employees for their accomplishments. 

  • Continually adapt and update your training methods to create a personalized strategy for your employees that helps to build a positive working relationship between them and you.

Getting started with Coursera

Develop an effective competency-based training program with courses on Coursera for Business. You’ll find courses that target skills development across a wide range of industries, from foundational knowledge to specific skill sets, all offered by top organizations and universities. 

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.