What is a Competency?

Rachel Lallouz

What is competency?

It's likely that at some point in your life - maybe even without knowing it - you've learned something through a competency-based learning process. Maybe you've completed a workshop or seminar related to your career to help you advance your skill set, or maybe you've been walked through hands-on practice of a specific task by a mentor. We go into depth about competency-based learning but in nutshell, competency-based learning focuses on the standardized acquisition of specific knowledge, skills and learning attitude. This new learning is practiced and assessed at each level of learning - think the demonstration of a certain skill or a test that assesses your knowledge. Grounded in adult learning principles, someone moving through a competency-based learning program is afforded the time they need to complete learning at their own pace.

But what exactly does competency refer to? Competency is the consistent performance of a task, set of tasks, or skills to a set and measurable standard. Aside from a simple definition, achieving competency for a task, set of tasks or series of skills can often represent a challenge for an organization who is seeking to identify, train and assess new learning - and this means that a competency-based learning program is often a much-needed intervention.

Achieving competency can also encompass a journey for the learner that entails practice, making mistakes, attaining goals or reaching new professional accomplishments. We refer to this journey as the learning cycle, and we design this learning cycle to include several different steps. The learner:

  1. Accesses the learning resources
  2. Completes self-study and self-test
  3. Completes the knowledge evaluation
  4. Participates in on-job demonstration
  5. Practices with coaching
  6. Completes on-job evaluation
  7. Updates learning records

Who needs to consider "competency" when developing learning and/or training opportunities?


The shortest answer to this question is you - if indeed you are looking for a solution to training or educating an individual or a group of people to master a competency. The longer answer to this question is simply any person who is in need of an effective learning program grounded in a history of research and practical application in the workforce, or anyone who isn't interested in dated, ineffective one-size-fits-all models of learning.

Why is "competency" an important concept in the realms of education and/or training?


Competency recognizes that consistent standards of learning hold high value to the successful operation of any organization. The idea of competency also accommodates a large range of diverse learning styles, past experiences and modalities. For example, both entry and senior-level team members at an organization can complete the same competency-based learning program, with both individuals gaining or strengthening certain competencies. Similarly, a competency-based learning program can be developed in an accessible way, meant to specifically accommodate the needs of different learners.

While other forms of learning might focus on highly theoretical ideas, a competency itself is anchored in the idea of practicality and real-life, hands-on experience. You might consider competency a key part of an organization's unique culture - competency is shared across members of an organization, fostering inclusivity, shared knowledge and personal development.

This is the first article in a three-part series covering Chapter 2 of our Skilling Up textbook. To access other articles in this series, please navigate below.

Article 2 - Implementing Competency in Your Organization

Article 3 - Navigating Competency with SkillBuilder

Ready to revolutionize your organization's learning experience? Download our latest eBook now to uncover the secrets behind successful LMS implementation and create engaging content that inspires your learners.

Download the Free Ebook

Rachel Lallouz

Rachel is our Writer/Book Development Coordinator and uses her experience in the fields of communication, editing and journalism to craft work that fits the flexible needs of BaseCorp and its clients. Her knowledge base has been shaped by her degrees in English and education. Rachel is originally from Vancouver, and is currently at work on her doctoral degree. In her spare time, Rachel is an avid cyclist and lover of all outdoor activities.