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How to Use Competency Models for Career Planning

Monday, February 8, 2016

The story is often the same. An employee is told that if she’s interested in other job opportunities, she should look at the company’s career maps, a predefined path for progression that usually shows what it looks like if you want to move up within a particular function. But is that realistic today? With many choosing to retire later, and the scarcity of available positions, moving up may not be an option. And with an increased awareness and desire for work-life balance, people are often more interested in expanding their breadth of skills than in moving up to management.

The other alternatives include “talking to HR,” which could be difficult due to the scale of the organization or comfort level of the individual, or “talking with your manager,” which could be difficult if the manager isn’t good at conducting career discussions, doesn’t understand the skill requirements of roles outside his function, or doesn’t want to lose a good employee.

“Career growth and learning and development are among the top engagement and retention factors for employees today,” write Wendy Tan and Beverly Crowell in a September TD magazine article. Organizations want to help people achieve their potential and use that as a value proposition for recruiting, but they may fall short in supporting that goal.

An easy solution is developing competency models. They identify the role-specific skill requirements and behavioral examples of those skills, so employees can own their career planning. This eliminates the HR or manager obstacles.

Once you have the competency models developed, enable people to self-assess against the skill requirements for the role or roles they might want next. That way they can evaluate whether they want that role, and if so, what skill development they should pursue to prepare themselves. They can then take skill development requests to their manager.


Ask yourself, “Do we want to be able to attract and retain our people?” If the answer is yes, explore how competency models and a competency assessment tool used for career planning can provide employees with a reason to stay, your managers with the ability and confidence to support data-driven career conversations, and HR with the ability to manage career planning at scale.

For more information about how to develop a competency model listen to this archived webcast "How to Create an Actionable Competency Model in Weeks!" which will be open to members and non-members for the next month.   If you're a member, you should also use the ATD Career Navigator to compare you skills to the ATD Competency model and develop your own career plan.



About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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