Posts tagged Skill Gaps
How many competencies should be in a competency model?
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Well, there is no one answer.  It’s based on the role.  A competency describes what’s most critical to success in a role, not everything one must do. 

Once you’ve built your model, you may discover there are simply too many tasks for a reasonable assessment and resulting development focus.  E.g. if you’ve identified more than 40 tasks, the assessment will simply take too long, and you’ll lose the intrinsic motivation you’re trying to create.  While there is no hard rule, we recommend 20 – 25. 

Think about it logically.  If it takes about 1 minute to review behavioral examples and select a value (in a meaningful and thoughtful way), and you have 50 competencies, that’s 50 minutes.  Can you say “survey fatigue”?  On the other hand, if you select the 20-25 most critical, it should take ~20 minutes… a much more realistic request.  Plus, who can focus on that many skills and potential gaps?! 

Consider that you may not need assess technical and soft skills separately

Pick the most critical to success items now, and continue to iterate it to capture changes in strategy, in tools, in technology, and in the environment in which you operate, so you can always focus on the critical tasks and skills for that point in time.  It may be that your assessment includes 20 now, and next year, you remove 8 and add 10 new ones.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
How competency models can support a new system rollout

Change. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. These are the things that surround a new enterprise system rollout (e.g., ERP, CRM, HCM).  But what if you could help people in each role understand exactly what was expected of them, both during the rollout, and thereafter as processes change? That’s exactly what role-based competency models can do. 

If you don’t already have one task in your competency model dedicated to the new system, create one.  It could be as simple as “Demonstrate the ability to use the [XYZ] system.”  Then, it is the behavioral examples that differentiate the task from one role to another.  And the levels of proficiency identify exactly what functions people in that job need to be able to perform (with support, or independently).  This will provide you with an easy way to communicate the expectations. 

For example, let’s say you’re rolling out a new Customer Relationship Management system.


The task you add to a Sales Rep may be “Document accounts and opportunity pipeline activities sufficiently in the CRM system”.  The task you add for a Sales Manager/Director may be “Perform sales forecasting and manage the opportunity pipeline with our CRM system”.

And the Sales Director behaviors at each level of proficiency (low to high) might look like this:

1 – Locate opportunity details in the CRM

2 – Perform sales forecasting via a standard CRM report

3 – Effectively use a CRM dashboard for viewing and communicating the sales funnel

4 – Create a dashboard for easy access to opportunity intelligence

5 – Create a complex CRM dashboard to handle scenario planning/”what if” analyses


If you have your competency model in a competency assessment tool, have people assess themselves against it (and the newly added/revised task), to identify their baseline.  Be sure you have competency-based learning mapped to each role, so that as the gaps are identified, they will point to role-specific learning opportunities that provide each person with the ability to take action.  Your best strategy is to point to informal learning because (1) you probably have some mandatory formal learning already provided to everyone, and (2) the way to best develop proficiency is to support them WHILE they work… with workflow learning.  That means system-specific job aids/performance support tutorials, informal skill practices like step by step how to create a dashboard that they can follow and complete their work, and links to communities of practice and FAQs for rapid answers.

Periodically, maybe every couple of months, and as the resulting assessment data communicates the current level of proficiency, tweak the model to incorporate any process changes or your expectations for proficiency.  For example, in my role, the target proficiency may have been 2 at the start of the rollout, but 3 months later, the target is a 3.  Four months later, I’m expected to be a 4. 

Now you have an easy way to communicate expectations, by role, as well as provide the appropriate competency-based learning to support the changes.  And you will motivate each person to close their own skill gaps.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
The future of work is now, and we’re not ready!
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There is no doubt that we’ve reached an inflection point.  Anyone who attended the ATD 2018 conference had “skill gaps” burned into their heads.

Both keynotes President Obama and Tara Deakin (TD Bank) said that we are at the crossroads of an unprecedented change in required skills.  Artificial intelligence and automation are creating a new revolution. CEOs have finally recognized that talent skill gaps may render them unable to compete.  So, there’s never a better time to assess the skill gaps in your organization (know how big the problem is) and measure progress over time. 

Which is why it’s not surprising that I had over 500 people attend my 2 sessions on competency models.

In addition to posting answers to competency model questions, I thought I’d post a few quotes that were highlighted in the conference.

McKinsey & Company:

  • “Artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt the workplace.  For workers of the future, the ability to adapt their skills to the changing needs of the workplace will be critical.  Lifelong learning must become the norm – and at the moment, the reality falls far short of the necessity.” 
  • According to Bob Kegan, Harvard Research Professor in Adult Learning & Professional Development, “It used to be, “I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.” It’s not going to be like that anymore.  We’re going to live in an era of people finding their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35.” 
  • According to Maria Flynn of Jobs for the Future, “In a country with such imperfect career navigation and lifelong-learning systems, plus the growth of the gig economy, we could end up worse off if we don’t start to change now.”

Do you agree?

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
TD Magazine: Know the Gap
Copyright ATD

Copyright ATD

Check out the new issue of @ATD's TD Magazine.

Read how to use competency models and assessments to know what skill gaps exist by Cheryl Lasse.  Learn how to get started, why it works, and do's and don'ts of skills assessments.

Or download the podcast.


News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
Does the application of competency models change based on industry?

Competency models describe what someone in a particular role should be able to do to perform their part of corporate strategy.  The application of competency models is how you make them actionable, and how you operationalize them. 

I’m a Mechanical Engineer.  I assess myself against the competency model for my job and identify a few skill gaps.  From my personalized learning plan (PLP), I identify what development actions I propose to take first.  My manager assesses me too – we discuss any perceptual differences and determine what I should focus on.  We review my proposed short term development plan and make any alterations.  My manager may identify a task-based mentor with whom I can work.  I start to execute the plan and my manager asks me about my progress regularly, referencing the behavioral examples in the competency model.  When I complete the items on my development plan, I re-assess myself to see what gaps remain.  And I repeat the continuous improvement process, together with my manager.

I’m a Retail Store Manager.  I assess myself against the competency model for my job and identify a few skill gaps.  The development actions (that is, the competency-based learning) in my PLP will be different than those proposed for the Mechanical Engineer, but the application is the same.

I’m a Radiology Technician.  I assess myself against the competency model for my job and identify a few skill gaps…

Well, you get the point.  The tactics may be different, the competency model will certainly be different, the environment in which people work may be different, but the application is the same. 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
How do you create real buy-in for development from people managers?

Question: “Managers will often ask for training then become one of the road blocks to ensuring it happens and that training is followed up on. What advice do you have for creating an attitude of real buy-in from managers of people?”

There’s actually a great article from Tim Riesterer called “A skills deficiency of our own making” ( where he talks about managers becoming the road block.  “Faced with the contradictory pressures to drive the business or take time to hone their team’s skills, the majority of managers are opting to take a pass on the training, according to 56 percent of respondents.”

So you need to help them understand the impact. 

We have a customer toolkit just for managers to help them understand what’s in it for them – if employees are more proficient, then you’ll get greater results… but YOU must help them close those gaps.  They need both an education and tools to help them to change, quickly and easily.  Managers also need to understand that NOT developing people is a risk. If they aren’t given the opportunity to grow, they’ll go somewhere they can. 

Through active participation in their team’s competency assessment, managers will see exactly what gaps each person has.  This makes their job SO much easier.  No guesswork!  Plus, they can identify task-based mentors so team members can work together to build bench strength.  If a personalized learning plan for closing any gaps is automatically generated, it will be hard for a manager to say, “listen, I know you have gaps, and here’s a list of activities you can do to close them, but I’m not going to give you time to do that.”

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
How can you use competency models to drive development of all generations?

In our experience, using competency models to drive intrinsic motivation to develop works with everyone of all generations.  If you look at the research, for example, Dan Pink’s research in DRIVE, it is a human characteristic to be motivated to mastery.  It’s why we work on our golf game or learn musical instruments for fun.  It’s why open source software and Wikipedia exist.

So once someone sees what they “should” be able to do, and they assess themselves against it and become aware of any gaps, young or old, they want to fix it.  It is a totally different dynamic when you want to fix something, versus when someone else wants you to do it.  Intrinsic motivation is the most effective and creates the best environment for learning transfer to occur.

The difference related to generations is about the patience they have in when that “fix” will occur.  Older generations tended to accept experience as one way to develop over time.  Younger generations want gaps to be closed immediately, and are driven to do whatever it takes to do it quickly.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
How do you get stakeholders to agree to use competency models?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

To get stakeholders to agree to use competency models, you need them to tell the story of skill gaps and engagement.  Today, it would be hard for a leader not to recognize that both are challenges they face.  Competency models can fix both. 

In order to know what gaps exist and to be able to measure improvement, you need a baseline.  A competency model will give that to you.

You’ll need to provide them with data.  In a recent ATD webinar (Why employees taking charge of their learning is good for you), we provided a lot of data points that can drive the point home.  There is a new social contract between employees and employers that competency models support, and which drive development and career planning – the key to acquisition and retention.  We also have 3 white papers that point to competency models being a logical solution to a problem they know they have.  (Overcoming Learning Disengagement, Why Employees Taking Charge Is Good For You, and A Competency Model Is The Roadmap To Greatness).

We recommend starting with a business unit or a department that is culturally accepting of this approach, and then leverage that success.  Compare the data points (from the above sources) with your own attrition rates, exit interview results, and engagement surveys.  The most commonly heard conclusion from that aggregated data is, “if we don’t start focusing more on development, people are going to leave.”  When you compare the cost of replacing people, the impact on creativity and innovation, and what turnover does to competitive advantage, you can’t afford not to try something different.


News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
Webinar: Overcome learning and development disengagement with personalized learning

Join us for a free webinar on April 5, from 1 - 2pm U.S. ET, powered by InSync Training.  Register here.

Two daunting trends -- the increasing skills gap and the lack of employee engagement -- are affecting the perception of Learning & Development (L&D) in organizations. Employees, managers, and executives are becoming increasingly disengaged from the L&D department and its offerings. It's time to turn it around! See what happens when you connect competency models to skills and career development with personalized learning. 

In this webinar, you’ll learn: 

  • The three primary contributors to learning disengagement and why the existing approaches may make the problem worse
  • A new approach (that employees embrace!) to drive learning engagement
  • 3 steps to implement personalized learning in your organization

Register today!.



News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
Why Competency Models Are The Secret Sauce For Closing Skill Gaps

It’s no secret that increasing skill gaps is one of the most daunting trends facing organizations today.  The latest PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of CEOs reported that 78% of them ranked skill shortages as the greatest threat to their companies.[i]

In a perfect world, CEOs wouldn’t have to worry about the skill gaps of their workforce – they would let the workforce own the closing of their gaps, even as those requirements change and become increasingly diverse.

If you’re looking for a strategy that will inspire employees toward increased mastery in their current role, you’re in luck!  People are already intrinsically motivated toward mastery, autonomy/self-direction, and purpose.[ii]   What you need is a road map for helping them get there.

Enter competency models. 

Competency models provide each person with a road map for how to be great.  To serve in this capacity, competency models must have these characteristics:

  • Be role-based, so they are relevant
  • Identify behavioral examples that show the various levels of proficiency separating someone who is adequate in that role from someone who is at the top end of the scale, so they can create a picture of what great looks like and demonstrate how to get there
  • Contain those tasks or skills that someone in that particular job role needs to do to achieve corporate strategy
  • Be reviewed at least annually for currency and relevance, and make it easy for those people in the role to continuously improve the model

Once you have models that do that, you need to make them:

  • Easily accessible so people can refer to them as often as needed as they grow in their role
  • Easy for people to measure themselves against, to help guide their development efforts

When embedded into a competency assessment tool, after self-assessment, a competency model provides each person with a baseline that tells them what skill gaps exist and what development activities are needed.   In that way, the model can intrinsically drive achievement motivation. 

Research shows that the more competent people become, the more engaged and satisfied they become and that leads to retention.  And when individuals own closing their skill gaps, the organization’s skill gaps will close.

Can you think of any more effective, low cost way to close skill gaps than inspiring and empowering each person to do it themselves?

[i] Skills gap is forcing CEOs to change how they hire people, PWC. June 4, 2015.

[ii] Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink, Daniel. Riverhead Hardcover. 2009.

Also at: and


News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector
See how the SDLE helps Santa close the skill gaps in his shop

In case you missed it, see how SkillDirector's Self-Directed Learning Engine helps Santa close the skill gaps in his shop.  No more one-size-fits-all!  The elves get competency-based personalized learning.


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