Competency development has become a key focus of human resources departments. With work forces shrinking and the need to be globally competitive, businesses need a lean, capable work force that can perform at optimal skill level, knowledge level and competency. Effective training is focused on developing competency via training activities developed through instructional design principles. The best plan for competency development is to conduct a needs assessment, identify competencies, validate competencies, conduct training, coach competencies and assess competencies. The process is an ongoing one that continues as new employees are hired, new competencies are developed, and skill and knowledge demands change.
The first step in competency development is to conduct a needs assessment. The needs assessment will determine the gap between performance standards and actual performance. The needs assessment helps to determine which employees lack what competencies. Evaluate all employees using the same methods, and assess only those competencies necessary to accomplish the goals of the organization.
The next step in competency development is to identify which competencies need further development. The needs assessment will point out performance gaps. The information about those gaps will determine what competencies should be written. Write competencies that are specific, measurable, attainable and reasonable. Start each competency with an action verb such as, "Greet guests within three minutes of their arrival."
Make sure the competencies being developed are valid. Once they are written, put them together in a survey and ask those who perform the task, their supervisors and their co-workers to rate the competencies on how frequently they are performed, how difficult they are and how often they need to be done. This will help determine whether the competency is valid and just how urgent the training is.
Training improves performance by helping employees meet professional competencies. Focus on individual competency development by using training that can be easily customized and broken into specific segments. Ideal vehicles for this include computer-based training, distance learning, individualized study and mentoring. When possible, create individual training plans that take into account the learning style of the person being trained and the type of competency being developed. Reading and self-study are excellent methods for knowledge-based competency development while role playing, simulation and on-the-job training works better for skill-based competency development.
Once an employee has participated in competency development activities, he or she may still need additional coaching to transfer learning from the training to the job. This is where supervisors play the largest role. They should provide active and supportive coaching that recognizes when an employee has achieved standards in a particular competency and when additional direction might be needed.
Finally, both the employee's performance and the competency need to be assessed. Determine whether the employee meets the competency standards. If so, determine if the competency adequately address the needs of the business. Measure the success of competency development through concrete measures such as customer feedback scores, sales figures and the meeting of financial goals.