October 19, 2007 by  Ashley Guberman

Marcello Tobar asked about Competence-based training on LinkedIn:

“Competence-based training is popular nowadays. I wonder if there is enough evidence to state that competence-based training is better for increasing performance of trainees as compared with more traditional training forms (competence understood as a combination of knowledge, skills, and attitude).  If so, what are key elements to perform successful competence-based training?”

The response from Mr. Lewandowski did an excellent job of identifying most of the key components of various forms of training. An additional resources on training that I have found useful is:
• Training for Impact. How to link training to the business needs and measure the results.
By Cana Gaines Robinson & James C. Robinson

Also, Mr. Fornal was correct in pointing out that beyond the actual training method chosen, that the learning style of the participant is equally important. There is a relatively straight forward instrument called the Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI) that focuses on the differences between those who learn from concrete experience (do it), reflective observation (see it), abstract conceptualization (think about it), or active experimentation (trial & error).
Learning Styles Inventory

Prior to embarking on any significant training endeavor in the corporate environment, it helps to step back and evaluate whether the barriers to effective performance are really about the need for training at all. For example, looking at the “Skill vs. Will” matrix can help the individual responsible for performance to evaluate whether the employees need more direction, guidance, responsibility, or motivation in order to be more effective.
Cf.: Skill vs. Will Matrix

Back to the core question of whether training is the solution at all, you may wish to look at the Blumberg Model, which identifies three primary barriers to effective performance: Capacity (skills, ability, knowledge, training), Willingness, and Opportunity. In that model, “Opportunity” is identified as the most commonly missing component to performance. For example, in a customer service call center, suppose that the operators are failing to resolve customer’s issues. Therefore, additional training is provided to address this problem, but resolution rates are still poor. Then it turns out that the operators know exactly what it would take to resolve customer issues, except that they are rewarded on how quickly they end the call, or the number of calls that they take. Operators may even be penalized for taking more time, even if that is what it would take to resolve the issues. Thus, despite now having the skill and will to resolve customer issues, as well as the competence to do so, if the manager insists on keeping the call volume high even at the expense of quality of service, then the operators lack the opportunity to really make use of the capacity that they now possess. In situations where there are other factors that limit effective performance, no amount of training will address the core problem.
Cf.: Blumberg Model

The short answer to whether there is evidence that competence based training outperforms others types would thus be very difficult prove. The truth is probably that it depends a great deal on the environment, and on whether lack of competence is really the core issue to be addressed.


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