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Trained vs Competent Employees

On the job training is an undeniably essential part of a company’s employee development process. Whether it’s new hire on-boarding, annual renewals, or new equipment training it is crucial that your employees not only complete the training but understand the material and perform to your expectations in the field. While training is a necessary step, it may not be enough to prove competence and ensure peace of mind. In today’s world of regulations and standards it is no longer enough to simply “train” your workforce. Establishing an employee development program that addresses each layer of job expectations helps guarantee your workforce is prepared and confident. There’s a difference between being trained vs competent and it could wind up costing you more than you think.

Traditional Training Methods

We’ve seen an incredible improvement in the process of delivering employee training with the advancement of technology. What once consisted mainly of in person demonstrations and paper assessments has evolved to encompass an unlimited range of options. From virtual classrooms to interactive evaluations there is no doubt the world of training has become more accessible, diverse and inclusive than ever before.

The introduction of LMS software (Learning Management Systems) completely changed the game in terms of efficiency and accountability. It became easier to develop, organize, and assign trainings, materials and assessments to large groups of employees at once. Tracking and monitoring employee progress also became much easier with the ability to view data in one place. The capability to automate and centralize all training related information gave HR and managers more flexibility and free time to focus on other job responsibilities.

The beauty of LMS’s is that even though the process of training and analyzing data became easier and less manual, it did not diminish the importance of employee training and development. If anything, there has been an increase of focus on the diversities of employee learning methods.

Training Misconceptions

While the forward thinking of LMS’s has provided more capability and flexibility to the training process, it seems the thinking behind employee training itself has stayed relatively stagnant for some time now.  Many companies use an LMS as a standalone method to training, creating courses or modules with corresponding assessments. Some still use the more traditional classroom learning method. The problem with this kind of approach to employee learning is that it can only account for the material covered in the classes.

After a training, employees are expected to retain that learned information and apply it appropriately on the job. Not to discredit the importance of training as it provides the information and conceptual knowledge needed to perform a job, but classroom or online trainings often fail to address the skills development necessary in the field. Overlooking skills training or failing to thoroughly track progress can lead to incompetencies in your employees and gaps in your workforce. Training may be one necessary step but there are often multiple steps for employees to complete to be fully cognizant and confident in the job they will perform.

What it Means to Be Competent

In recent years, the idea of competency management has become increasingly popular in various industries. “Competency is best described as the demonstration of acquired skills against an expected outcome” (Peter Holtmann). The difference between being trained and being competent is that a competent employee has completed a set of requirements and can perform to expectations in the field consistently. Typically, a trained employee has only completed one component of a potential competency model. That is not to say all trained employees are incompetent, but it is far more difficult to track and prove competence based solely on trainings.

Competency is achieved through the combination of multiple levels of knowledge acquisition. This could include training courses, prior education, skills development and more. In other words, it takes time, effort, and dedication to become competent but the payoff is well worth it. Greater efficiency, improved quality, and lower costs can all result from prioritizing competency rather than training programs alone.

The Price of Incompetence

Every business knows that in order to succeed you must have a qualified and diligent workforce supporting all business operations. Incompetence is never taken lightly and certainly not ignored once identified. But unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify and address in a timely manner especially without an established competency framework.

When incompetence goes unnoticed, your business and your people are at risk. Whether it’s risk of failing an audit, unsatisfactory production, or injury there are always consequences, some worse than others. In addition to greater risk, there is the chance that your business processes will be less efficient and more expensive. Incompetent employees are less able to preform to expectations, meaning their work is likely costing you more in all areas.

Shifting to a competency based learning model may seem like a daunting task but it’s no doubt a worthwhile one. Whether looking to improve your training processes, create a more efficient workforce, or reduce long-term costs competency management can help. Investing the time and resources into establishing a competency based employee development program will guide your organization to success.


The Competency Manager software application by CABEM Technologies was designed specifically to address these common challenges in employee training. Whether supplemental to your existing LMS or used as a standalone solution, the Competency Manager can help track and prove employee competencies, onboard new hires, and keep records and documentation organized.