Skip to content

When Competency Matters…

Approx 6 minute read

Back to all Content
When Competency Matters…

Ever get this question: “How do you know they know? I mean really…. how do you really know they know? 

If you haven’t heard this question being asked in the L&D context of your organization, in one form or another, you will soon enough. 

Major shifts in a company’s modus operandi are often triggered when the questions being asked by regulators, by auditors, by leadership or even customers begin to shift. That’s often what ignites the fires of change.  

The drumbeat has been audible for several years already, but the Pandemic has really ratcheted up the volume. More than ever before, large organizations are questioning the efficacy and value of their own training, learning, and development programs. And it’s about time! 

In the age of digitalization and personalization, legacy methods of measuring the success of training and learning, such as course attendance, participant smile sheets, and check-the-box completions are no longer good enough or acceptable. Period. 

Expectations are shifting globally. They are shifting for all enterprises in every industry. With this shift in expectations, you want to be prepared to answer how you know that your learners have actually learned (and are capable of putting into practice) what you expect them to know. Being able to answer that question hinges on whether you can measure that they are competent. 

What does it mean to be competent? Competency is achieved by successfully and consistently applying knowledge at the right time in the right context in the right proportion. Competency is knowledge coupled with the ability to apply that knowledge. When you can apply specific knowledge to perform a job repeatedly at a requisite level of proficiency, you are demonstrating competency. You are skilled. 

Before we get into how to measure for competency, let’s discuss when and why competency matters.  

competency mattersCompetency clearly matters in any context where failure to perform a job role appropriately, risks injury or death to a customer, to a co-worker, or to themselves. In other words, when your job performance literally means the difference between life, injury, or death, then you better believe competency matters. 

Competency also matters when the performance of an operation is high stakes to the business in terms of risk and reward, and/or the operation is highly dependent upon workers reliably executing their roles to a threshold level of proficiency. 

And even in cases where it's not life and death or a situation that carries high stakes, competency is still paramount in almost all work circumstances because every activity or action has some impact on earning and retaining your customers’ trust. 

Competent workers are critical to organizational performance. Period. 

So how does one measure competency in the context of training and learning? 

To be competent in a given role or task, learning must progress through three phases: (1) acquisition and comprehension of relevant knowledge, (2) ability to apply the knowledge correctly, and (3) ability to repeatedly apply the knowledge with discretion.  

Measuring training and learning has historically been mostly superficial using completion records and satisfaction surveys that have little to do with competency or performance, or even proof of knowledge acquisition and retention over time. For example, is the learner satisfied or dissatisfied with the training? Did they attend sessions? Did they participate in discussions? Did they watch the video? Etc.  

Who cares – not meaningfully relevant.  But to be fair, L&D teams has had limited options up until now because the state of technology was not terribly advanced. work competency Realizeit Blog

There is a huge chasm between conventional forms of learning measurement versus measuring true competency. It goes back to the opening question, “how do you know they know? 

Yes. There is a way. 

If you are an L&D leader today, this is very likely already on your mind. The way forward will challenge you to think outside the box. It starts with a new mindset… a new learning and measurement model centered on individual knowledge, not content… powered by new intelligent technology that enables adaptivity to personalize the learning for key roles at the scale and speed of the enterprise.


Because the way forward requires an innovation strategy to bring L&D into the age of personalization.  If you want to jump-start your thinking, this research brief is a good place to start: Personalized Learning at Scale: Embracing an Adaptive Mindset to Transform Learning. 

You either need competency, or you really need competency depending on your company’s risk profile. Either way, linking learning to performance is no longer a nice to have. It’s becoming an imperative.  

At Realizeit, we help large-scale organizations think through this question every day and, together, we design and deploy tailor-made training and learning solutions powered by AI-based technology integrated into their existing ecosystem, so that L&D leaders can say with confidence (and evidence) that “Yes, we know they know! 

To learn how to implement a new learning and measurement model centered on individual knowledge for personalizing learning, reach out to our Realizeit team!



Adaptive Learning Technology: Is this the solution to providing truly personalized learning?

Join Fiona Leteney, senior analyst at Fosway Group, in conversation with Manoj Kulkarni, CEO at Realizeit, to dig deeper into Adaptive Learning and how organizations can harness it to personalize their learning experience

Thursday October 6, 10:00 AM CT (60 min.)
Register Now