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Competencies Development Competency-based Management

How to create development programs with impact

By HRSG Team on February, 24 2023

Article table of contents (jump to section):

  1. Development programs have huge potential
  2. Getting development right isn't easy
  3. Competencies enhance development
  4. Build an impactful development program

In a tight talent market, organizations are scrambling to improve their development resources. Could competencies help them do it better?

As the need for talent grows more urgent, employee development is getting more attention than ever before. At a time when talent is harder to find and hold on to than ever before, organizations are prioritizing development as a way to retain, upskill, and reskill the talent they already have.


Development programs have huge potential

The case for development as a powerful means of retaining and enhancing talent is overwhelming. Development programs have been shown to measurably improve development and recruitment as well as organizational culture and agility.

  • 48% of Gen Z workers would consider switching jobs to update their skills through training
  • Employees consider development to be the #1 driver of a great work culture
  • Companies that offer professional development opportunities see 34% higher retention
  • Organizations that focus on development are 52% more productive and 17% more profitable


Getting development right isn't easy

Despite its tremendous appeal and potential, development programs are hard to get right. While about 16% of the organizational budget goes toward training, 47% are dissatisfied with their employer's learning and development programs. Where do things go wrong? For most, it comes down to two issues.

First, development programs are often not designed to be employee-centric. Created by talent managers with little or no input from the employees they serve, these programs don't reflect employee priorities or support employee empowerment.

An Oracle survey found that 70% of employees want to identify their own learning needs, while only 38% wanted those decisions made by their L&D team, and only 22% wanted them made by their executives.

A truly employee-centric development program enables employees to take an active role in choosing the learning path and objectives that suit their preferences, abilities, and goals.

Secondly, development programs aren't always relevant. They are often stand-alone initiatives that don't align with employee or organizational needs and priorities, which makes it difficult for employees, managers, or HR to identify skill gaps and determine the best way to fill them. And because the development options don't map to specific roles or opportunities within the organization, it's hard for employees visualize how their development efforts will help them advance.


Competencies enhance development

Competencies can help companies build development programs that are more relevant, engaging, and employee-centric. Competencies define the abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, and traits needed for successful job performance in terms of observable, measurable, on-the-job behaviors. Because of the way competencies are structured and applied to talent management activities, they help to ensure that development programs reflect both employee and organizational priorities.

Employee-centric. Because competencies are applied to every job in the organization, and because they are structured to define progressive levels of proficiency, they help employees visualize the steps they need to take and the distance they need to travel to reach their next career goals. Mapping learning resources to these specific proficiency levels creates a learning framework that’s transparent and intuitive, which means that employees can set a learning path and navigate it with minimal oversight from their managers or talent managers. When a range of learning options are mapped to each level, employees can choose the options that align with their learning preferences. For example, the employee may prefer on-the-job learning experiences, informal peer learning, or formal courses.

Relevant. A competency-based development program can make learning experiences more focused and relevant than a program based on skills, credentials, or other criteria, because competencies define successful on-the-job behaviors in greater detail. While more ambitious learning goals, such as new skills or credentials, can be mapped to lengthier, in-depth learning goals, more granular behaviors can be mapped to microlearning opportunities that are quicker to complete. The level of detail provided by competencies enables employees to target a specific performance area, build a plan, and improve in that area before moving on to the next career challenge, and at every step, they can measure their progress toward a specific goal.


Build an impactful development program

In a tight talent market, the need for relevant, engaging, impactful development programs is greater than ever. But a successful development initiative requires the right tools as well as a thoughtful strategy and execution.

Competencies can help you create development programs that are anchored to specific role requirements, aligned with concrete career goals, and designed to empower employees to take the initiative and choose their own path to success.


Get more actionable insights on this topic. Download "6 Principles for Building Better Development Programs with Competencies," a step-by-step guide for designing, launching, and measuring the impact of employee-centric, competency-based development.

Take a closer look at CompetencyCore, the first AI-driven platform for defining talent using competencies and growing talent through competency-based development and career pathing.