May 18, 2017

The Growing Importance of Skills and Competencies for eLearning

Written by
Victoria Hoffman
Tags: HR

With the continued emergence of new technologies and growing business pressure, the skills required for employees to succeed today are not the same as the skills they may need tomorrow.

The misalignment of worker skills with available jobs is becoming a major issue for businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the Beveridge Curve (a graphical representation of the number of unfulfilled jobs as a proportion of of the labor force) has shifted outward over the past few years. This indicates a growing number of job vacancies, more than the unemployment rate alone could have anticipated.

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Although there are a number of reasons for this shift, one of the biggest is skills mismatch, that is, workers don’t have the skills employers are looking for. Organizations that want to improve their talent management abilities must invest in learning programs (and the right learning management system) to help employees gain the skills they need.

One of the best methods for designing learning programs that work is understanding how to leverage existing employee skills and using a competency-based learning strategy.

Understanding Skills and Competencies

A “skill” can be defined as a specific learned ability. The definition of “competency” is slightly broader, referring to the knowledge and skills required to do something and achieve a desired outcome.

A competency-based learning approach involves creating a tailored learning plan for employees based on their current skills (as determined by an evaluation). A competency-based training program is specifically designed to help an employee gain the skills and competencies they need to perform in their current role, to execute a new job function, or to reach the next level in their career. By evaluating the learner’s current skills and competencies, you identify skill gaps and assign the most appropriate development program or course.

At a basic level, leveraging skills and competencies will help employers:

  • Better establish the available and required roles and skillsets at their organization
  • Determine the gaps between an employee’s current competencies and the skills required to be successful in a role
  • Provide training recommendations for improving employee skills
  • Identify target skills (understand what is required for an employee to move from role A to role B)
  • Understand and measure the effectiveness of their training programs
  • Review how skills have improved performance after training

In practice, this approach can be quite complex, and it’s nearly impossible to execute most of these steps without the right learning technology. However, organizations that successfully introduce a competency-based training model will reap many benefits.

Benefits of Competency-Based Training

A competency-based learning program can help organizations:

  • Save time and resources: Training employees is a huge investment. By understanding an employee’s particular skill gaps and implementing a plan for their career development, employers won’t be wasting time or money on unnecessary training.
  • Improve knowledge retention: Workers will forget up to 50 percent of what they learn within one hour. That’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scary stats about employee knowledge retention. If training is irrelevant to an employee’s current or future job, odds are, the lessons learned won’t stick.
  • Improve skills alignment: As mentioned, skills mismatch is a huge issue for organizations. In order to reach optimal business outcomes, companies must use a training program that provides continuous development opportunities for employees. A competency-based training model will help align employee skills with job functions in a scalable way.
  • Close the gap between learning and performance: Perhaps the most exciting benefit of competency-based training is that it helps organizations measure which tactics (both formal and informal) increase individual and organizational performance. With the right learning management system, you can use these insights to increase the effectiveness of your learning programs.

Meet the Future Needs of Your Learners

In a world driven by technological changes, the list of required employee skills will only continue to grow and progress. One of the most effective ways to keep up is by developing the skills and competencies of your learners.

Understanding skills and competencies also points to a larger fact: companies must continue to meet learner needs or risk being left behind. Organizations that evolve, change, and develop new skills are those that will flourish in 2017 and beyond.


Victoria Hoffman is a Content Specialist at Docebo. She is a graduate of University of Toronto’s Semiotics & Communication Theory Program and has 5+ years of experience in digital marketing. She enjoys writing and is always looking for a good book recommendation.

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