How to Create a Competency Development Plan

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Competency development is essential for increasing your workforce’s skills and helping you make better strategic decisions. Learn more about the benefits of a competency development plan and how to create one.

[Featured image] Marketing team working on a competency development plan

Implementing a competency development plan can help your employees develop their competencies to become more productive and effective in your workforce. This essential tool can help you make better strategic decisions and improve recruitment and retention.

Also known as professional development plans, these strategies are not static, unchanging documents but rather living processes that you fine-tune and develop along with your workforce. In this article, you’ll learn how to create and continuously refine your competency development plan in five steps.

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What is competency development?

Competency development is a process of improving your team’s skills, behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes—the vital elements that help them find professional success. Competencies are sometimes misunderstood, with many believing the term is interchangeable with skills. However, competencies represent a broader range of attributes. A skill refers to one specific ability, while a competency may refer to several skills, specific knowledge, and experience or personality traits, such as a tendency to enjoy collaborating with others. Competency development offers a process for determining the competencies your team could improve and how you can approach professional development for the best results.

Read more: What Is Competency-Based Training?

Examples of competencies

The competencies critical to your work depend on your industry, the type of work you do, and the values of your company culture. You can break competencies into smaller categories, such as core, leadership, and technical competencies. Within each category, you can include subcompetencies as well.

For example, a company that values innovation and quick thinking might list core competencies such as adaptability, collaboration, and critical thinking. A company that values strong customer relationships may list core competencies such as customer service, communication, conflict management, and cultural awareness.

Other examples of competencies may include: 

  • Ownership of work 

  • Flexibility

  • Negotiation

  • Initiative

Why is a competency development plan important?

Competency development is essential to stay competitive and offers you the ability to make better development decisions, improve the competencies of your workforce, plan for the future, and retain top talent. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits.

Better decision-making with limited development resources

Competency development plans help you gain a better understanding of what your team is capable of and identify the areas where they could use improvement. Doing so provides insight into the effectiveness of professional development programs, helping you focus your limited time and money on only the programs that will help your team the most.

Improved skills and competencies company-wide

Implementing competency development allows your team to develop new competencies and improve performance. A more skilled workforce is more likely to accomplish its goals on individual, team, and organizational levels.

Better recruitment and retention

Competency development helps you retain your skilled workforce and makes recruiting even easier. By giving you a roadmap for the skills required to succeed, you have a more targeted idea of the candidate you’re looking for. As your employees develop more and better competencies, your employees will mirror the engagement and investment you make in them by staying longer with the company.

Plan your workforce for the future.

Competency development helps you look toward the future and prepare your team for changes. You can prepare your staff to take on increased responsibility in the future by sharpening their skills and competencies now. When your senior staff retires, you’ll have natural successors ready to take their place.

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How to create a competency development plan.

If you want to create a competency development plan but aren’t sure where to start, these five steps can help you create and fine-tune your competency development plan.

Step 1: Identify the competencies important for your workforce.

Before you begin a competency development plan, it’s critical to think about the goals and objectives you hope to achieve by implementing the plan. Then, start by identifying the competencies your ideal workforce would have. You can reach out to HR to help define competencies, but make sure you seek feedback from your team. After all, they are the experts completing the work. You may also want to communicate with your company about your intentions to create a competency development plan to ease concerns.

Step 2: Collect data about current competencies.

After you understand the breadth of competencies your staff needs, you’ll need to measure the competencies your employees currently have. You can observe your employees, talk with people about their work and careers, or ask people to fill out questionnaires. These strategies can help you gain a better understanding of what your team is capable of and where skills gaps may exist.

Step 3: Determine development objectives and select materials.

After you understand what skill gaps exist in your team, you can determine the competencies to prioritize, who should be a part of development, and which materials or methods will be best to help your team learn. In some cases, you will encounter competencies that are helpful company-wide, while in other cases, you will develop specific profiles for different roles. For example, you’ll need different competencies from your accounting team than you will from your marketing team.

It is also helpful to create profiles of your employees outlining their competencies. You can use this information to offer personalized career development and set performance goals.

Step 4: Implement a competency development plan.

Next, it will be time to implement your competency development plan. Your first initiatives may target specific employees or roles in the company, or you may offer broader company-wide development first. Implementing your plan goes beyond simply providing one training program, but rather the beginning of a documented process you can replicate. As you build and grow your competency development, your plan can address more specific competencies or roles in the company.

Step 5: Evaluate progress and determine the next steps.

Competency development is a process that you can continuously improve by evaluating the results of development initiatives and what the next steps should be. You can look at how overall development programs worked, how well staff responded to them, and individual progress on competencies. You can also set new goals for your workforce. With all that you’ve learned, you can return to step one and reexamine your goals and the values most important to your company, assess your team’s current competencies, and begin planning the next phase of your competency development plan.

Learn more with Coursera.

If you’d like to learn more about competency development and team leadership, consider taking a course on Coursera. Personal Leadership Development Planning and Leading High Performing Teams, offered by Rice University, covers topics like leadership development plans, performance improvement, goal setting, creating a motivating team environment, and more. This course takes about 22 hours and is part of Rice University's Leadership Development for Engineers Specialization.

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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.