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How can I use competency models to transfer institutional memory?

(Question posted by participant in Accelerating Learning Transfer webinar:  The original question asked had to do with transferring institutional memory/knowledge to facilitate succession planning, or to address loss of talent due to retirement or attrition. )

At this point it’s clear.  Those people in your organizations, the ones you go to for all your questions about how to get things done, they’re starting to retire.  And while you try to get them to train those who will take their place, you know most of that information will disappear forever.  You’ve known it was coming, but a solution just hasn’t been easy.  Even if the person being replaced is still at the company when their successor starts, unless they are a high performer who is able to easily articulate all their best practices, the new person will have to start at the basics.  Additionally, the knowledge drain that accompanies attrition can hurt you in unimaginable ways, especially if they are high performers.

How can competency models help?

Let’s start with the basic question – how do we capture what the best people, and those who know how to get things done, know and do?  And then, once we know what that is, how can we share it with those who need to know?

The answer is simple.  You use your high performers, and those with valuable expertise, to create a competency model.  Very simply, a competency model describes what it looks like to be great in each role.  It defines the skills and the knowledge required to execute their part of corporate strategy.

If you want to learn how to build a competency model easily in just weeks, watch this ATD webinar.

In this way, you capture all the critical nuances of what people do to be successful.  This may include with whom they build relationships, what process steps they take, and what tools they’ve created to ensure repeatable success. 

Now you know what they know and do to get things done.  And you probably have informal resources you’ve collected during the process that can serve as competency-based learning for others.  How do you share it with those who need to know?

You make that competency model actionable in a competency assessment tool. 

  • This gives everyone in that role the ability to see what great looks like, from their first day in the job (onboarding). 
  • It gives people in that role the ability to compare their skills and identify what gaps they have (individual skill development). 
  • It gives people who are not yet in that role the ability to compare their skills and identify what gaps they have (career planning).
  • It gives hiring managers the ability to fine tune who they hire (recruiting).

And you also want to connect that competency model to competency-based learning and automate that connection.  In this way, you can provide personalized learning to empower people to close their own gaps.

What’s more, providing that kind of empowerment to your employee population will make it more likely that your high performers will stay.  They will know how to close their skill gaps, and how they can prepare for other roles in the organization that may suit them.


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