ATD Blog

Use Competency Models to Close Skill Gaps and Drive Retention

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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 percent of them ranked skill shortages as the greatest threat to their companies.

In a perfect world, CEOs wouldn’t have to worry about the skill gaps of their workforce. They would let the workforce close their skill gaps themselves, 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 roles, you’re in luck! In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink writes that people are already intrinsically motivated toward mastery, self-direction, and purpose. You just need a road map for helping them get there, which is where competency models can help.

Competency models provide each person with a plan for how to be great. However, 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 a role from someone who is at the top end of the scale, in order to create a picture of what great looks like and demonstrate how to get there. 
  • Contain thee skills that someone in a particular role needs to achieve corporate strategy. 
  • Be reviewed at least annually for currency and relevance, and make it easy for people in a certain role to continuously improve the model.

Additionally, you need to make competency models: 

  • easily accessible so people can refer to them 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, a competency model provides people with a baseline that tells them what skill gaps they have and what development activities they need. In that way, the model can intrinsically drive motivation.
Research shows that the more competent people become, the more engaged and satisfied they become, which leads to retention. And when individuals close their own skill gaps, the organization’s skill gaps will also close.

Can you think of a more effective, low-cost way to close skill gaps than inspiring and empowering people to do it themselves?

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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