Using Thinking Strategies to Develop a Competency-based Training Profile - Part 3

Posted 5/10/2017

Using Thinking Strategies to Develop a Competency-based Training Profile—Part 3 (Sequence the Training)


Parts 1 and 2 of this three-part blog focused on the thinking strategies to develop:

·         A relevant and useful competency-based training profile

·         A scope document that defines the critical content for each competency

Part 3—Develop a training plan: sequence on-the-job training


Part 3 focuses on how to sequence the training to develop a training plan (training matrix) for the entire training program. After we have developed the profile and scope document, we must decide the order in which training is provided for each group of employees—the competencies on the training profile are not organized in the order in which the training will be provided, though some competencies may be sequenced to match the technology, process flow, or tasks. 

Some of the training programs I have been involved with could take an employee five or six years to complete. The largest program I worked on had a complex career development scheme whereby, over a period of eleven years, an employee could progress to different disciplines (e.g., maintenance, operator, scheduler, supervisor). Each customer has unique requirements. I always find it challenging to develop training plans for a new customer and highly rewarding when I can come up with a practical solution that works. 

For many customers, there is a desire to provide a lot of knowledge and safety training before a trainee starts work. However, this approach could mean that the trainee may not do productive work for a considerable time. Instead, the training is sequenced to manage risk and the needs of the job. 

The immediate goals of training are to have the trainee start work as soon as possible and to minimize risk. Ideally, the training would be sequenced developmentally and all trainees would follow that sequence. In practice, for technical training, job requirements often dictate that the sequence of training be flexible but not create confusion for the trainee. 

Here are four examples of sequencing training. In each situation, the customer’s needs dictate the training sequence.

Example 1

A simple training sequence for a position could start with:

·         Company orientation required before working

·         Regulatory safety training required before working

·         Less complex tasks that are of low risk to PEMEO (people, equipment, 
 material, environment, and organization)

·         Routine tasks that are performed every day or week

The remaining competencies for that position are then grouped into a recommended sequence. The sequence would include:

·         Competencies that address support knowledge

·         Advanced safety and environmental training

·         Additional asks and the related support knowledge sequenced from
 less complex to more complex

·         Competencies on troubleshooting

However, to meet job requirements, the recommended training sequence may not be followed. Some job variables include:

·         Opportunity: some tasks are only performed as needed or when
 equipment is down for repairs

·         Staffing requirements: vacation relief, medical absence

·         Customer requirements: the need to meet an increased demand
 for a specific product

Example 2

When a trainee becomes certified in a position and moves to the next positon, the trainee may need to complete mandatory training before starting work in the new position. In this example, the competencies for a positon may be grouped as:

·         Before starting work in the new position

·         To be completed in the next six months

Sometimes, because of the nature of the work or the opportunities for training, a competency has two tiers, basic and advanced. Here’s an example where two competencies, each with basic and advanced tiers, are completed over three progression levels (2, 3, and 4):

·         Training for one basic competency is completed in level 2. The training
 for the related advanced competency is completed in level 3.

·         Training for a different basic competency is assigned to level 3;
 the related advanced competency is assigned to level 4.

Example 3

Sometimes, competencies assigned to a position may, or may not, be completed depending on the availability of the equipment. Here’s an example, using a company with many small facilities spread over a large area. The large area is divided into districts; employees are initially assigned to one district. All districts have small facilities that are very similar. A few districts have equipment that is specific to that district. 

For all districts, the training sequence is developmental from level 1 to level 5. Each level has a group of common competencies that all employees must complete. Each level also has elective competencies which are completed where, for example, the specific equipment is available in a district. The trainee is certified for a specific level when the common competencies and available electives are completed.  

At some point, the employee may move to a different district. This new district likely has different equipment and related elective competencies. The trainee is then required to back train to complete the new district’s elective competencies.


Example 4

In this example, a company has two major areas, production and finishing. The training program is for operators and maintenance personnel. There are many job positions within each area. 

All employees

All new employees have to complete a set of company level competencies within the first three days of employment. All employees also have to complete some company level training during their first job assignment. 

For the Area

After assignment to a specific area, all new employees must complete area-specific competencies within the first three days of employment. The employees must also complete additional area-specific competencies during the first six months. 


When an operator is assigned to a new job position, some job-specific competencies must be completed within the first three days. The operators must complete additional job-specific competencies during the job assignment.

At this company, the shipping department has sub-positions for operators. Within the first three days of employment the new employee must complete shipping-specific competencies. The new employee must also complete specific competencies for the assigned sub-position during the first three days and additional competencies thereafter. The employee is qualified in shipping after the competencies for all sub-positions are completed.

 At this company, the training sequence for maintenance depends on the specialty:

·         All mechanical employees (millwrights, lubrication technologist, predictive
maintenance technician) have to complete introductory training:

o   Some competencies within the first three days

o   Some during the first job assignment

o   Additional competencies (external courses) to be completed
when available

·         Employees for each mechanical specialty complete trade-specific training:

o   Specific competencies during the first three days

o   The remaining set of trade-specific competencies during
the job assignment

· The mechanical zone manager’s training sequence is divided to
 match with the assigned zones for which he or she is responsible.
 Some general competencies for zone managers are completed during
 the first job assignment regardless of which zone the manager in
 training is assigned. Other competencies are assigned for each
 zone. Training for all the zones must be completed to be a
 qualified as zone manager.

·         For electrical/instrumentation, some competencies are completed
 within the first three days, some competencies must be
 completed before being assigned as Shift Electrician, and
 additional competencies must be completed to fulfill the
 electrical/instrumentation training requirements.

In addition to the above examples of training sequences, some variations include:

·         One company has a large workforce during the day and a skeleton
 workforce during the night shift. The night shift consists of a
 supervisor for two side-by-side facilities and one operator for
 each facility. The trainee has to complete specific competencies
 during the day shift before being able to work alone on night
 shift. The trainee also completes ongoing training to be qualified
 for a positon. While completing the required competencies to work
 alone, the trainee would also complete some ongoing competencies
 when opportunities arise. When working alone on night shift, a
 task may have to be performed that is part of the ongoing
 competencies for which the trainee has not had training. In this
 case, the supervisor provides the coaching.

·         Another company assigns core skills to be completed during the
 entire training program.

·         Another variation is time in a position. Some companies require
 that a trainee work in one position for a minimum amount of time
 before progressing to the next position. This requirement ensures
 that the trainee performs tasks and makes decisions under different
 work conditions (e.g., summer and winter). Other companies assign
 a maximum time that a trainee should be training for a position to
 establish a benchmark for the training to be completed.

 In addition to establishing policies about time-in-position, other policies must also be in place such as for grandfathering and recertification requirements (regulatory and site specific). Some companies incorporate pay-and-progression into their training programs as part of a performance management system. 

Have you used similar sequencing strategies? Are the ideas I have provided of value to you? Have you used training sequences different from the ones I have identified? 

Gordon Shand is President of HDC Human Development Consultants Ltd. and has 35 years of experience designing and developing educational and training programs that have excellent practical value and contribute to the customer’s business success.