Developing a Training Curriculum Through Competency Modeling

It is imperative to design a training curriculum for employees to progress through that is founded on the organization’s key competencies. Developing a model of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that indicate successful performance on the job can serve as an ideal starting point for identifying the factors critical to success in an organization. In creating a cohesive competency model, one can begin to build out a curriculum that features a series of courses that not only refine talent, but also create a learning path for employees to follow as they grow within an organization.

Challenges often arise for L&D professionals when trying to select the right training for staff. Given budget restrictions, pressure from higher-ups, and resistance from the workforce, reluctance to engage in training interventions may manifest from every direction. On average, though, the data shows that individuals are willing to put in the time towards investing in themselves, and organizations are increasingly recognizing the worth of the investment. Data collected by ATD’s 2017 State of the Industry report shows how in recent years employees annually spend approximately 34 hours pursuing developmental opportunities. It’s a win-win scenario; while employees enrich themselves and advance their career, organizations receive the benefits of improved job performance.

As time progresses, new methods are also emerging to enable learning in new ways. Each year, e-learning solutions comprise a greater proportion of training conducted and can range from expert-hosted webinars to asynchronous, on-demand learning which allows individuals to progress at their own discretion. As opposed to traditional classroom training, which is still regarded as the most impactful, training professionals are seeking development opportunities for high-potentials that keep costs down. It’s difficult to pull a worker from their role for multiple days, let alone expense their travels, so what’s the best option? As is the all-too-common answer, it depends.

One major issue in the field of training and development is that all too often engagements are viewed as terminal events rather than a key component of organizational growth that should be sustained and feature next steps. Investing in training at a transactional level can often overlook a company’s culture and essential learning objectives, and while on-the-job learning is still strongly encouraged, a customized engagement can grant a unique experience that addresses an organization’s most critical needs. Picture a research organization. Within it, several scientists serve as independent contributors, many of which demonstrate expert knowledge in their field but also introverted inclinations and poor interpersonal skills which often lead to disagreements. Nonetheless, a few have been selected for promotions into managerial roles, and HR is sending them to take an introductory course. However, an “off-the-shelf” intervention may not meet all of the organization’s needs for this particular scenario. Following a competency model that was developed in-house, a custom solution may be sought that additionally emphasizes skill gaps, such as communicating with emotional intelligence, delegation skills, and managing conflict.

Refining your organization’s developmental programs can also lead to reduced rates of attrition. Given a greater awareness of where the training can take them within the organization, and what they might yet accomplish, an employee may be more motivated to stay with a company that they perceive as invested in their future.  In a time where occupational commitment is valued more greatly than organizational commitment, investing in your workers and giving careful thought to their future in the form of a learning path can make a huge difference.

Practitioners in learning and development need to strive to develop a curriculum that is founded on the criteria that drive success and embody the values of their respective organization. Curricula that are developed should be (1) content valid and (2) brand valid. Content valid means that the material covered in the curriculum, whether internal or purchased from a vendor, addresses the need of the employees. Brand valid means that the material in the curriculum matches the brand of the organization. Thus, what is taught in the curriculum addresses both skills and culture through the lens of branding.

Designing a developmental model for workers to advance through that is both derived from current best practices and also ‘brand valid’ can have a lasting impact. Organizations pursuing engagements that closely align with their values and practices are striving to achieve just this. Aligning competencies for success with a targeted curriculum will have a mutually beneficial outcome, granting individuals the opportunity to hone their talent while sustaining effectiveness within a company’s operations.

This article was co-authored with Sy Islam, Ph.D.