How to make competency models more practical

Skill gaps are most organizations’ biggest issue today.  If your competency models can’t help quantify the size of the gaps so they can start taking action, then they are not practical.

Contain the “right” tasks

First, you need the model itself to contain the “right” tasks, those that are critical to success in the role so that each person can do their part of corporate strategy.

Leverage behavioral examples

Second, each task must contain behavioral examples of each level of proficiency.  This enables people to accurately and consistently assess their own capabilities and those of their team members.

Additionally, those behaviors should provide a roadmap to increasing proficiency.  By describing best practices, the details in the model itself provide a vision of what “great” looks like and how to get there.  You do this by including your high performers in the development of the model, rather than HR and L&D developing the model independently.  You can find examples in the ATD webinar (Develop an actionable competency model in weeks) and associated materials you can download from

Make the model actionable

Third, you need to make the model actionable.  It has to be accessible and assessable. That means getting it off the PowerPoint, out of the spreadsheets and into your employees’ hands.  Quickly. Easily. Elegantly.  If you create a song and dance around a “competency model” that isn’t easily accessible by those during the development process, and isn’t assessable such that one can measure their capabilities against it to identify and close gaps with personalized, competency-based learning, then to them, the people you serve, it’s worthless. 

If leadership can’t use your competency models to quantify the size of the organization’s skill gaps, then they won’t support the models or your efforts.

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