Understanding the Difference Between Competencies and Training

14 Jun 2024

Navigate Food Safety Solutions

Understanding the Difference Between Competencies and Training


When we talk about competencies and training, it's easy to confuse the two. They might seem similar, but they are fundamentally different. Often, people expect the outcomes of a competency program to come from a simple training program. However, it's important to understand that training is just a small part of a competency program. Therefore, the outcomes of training alone will be less impressive compared to the results from a broader competency program. If you're aiming for specific outcomes, don't rely solely on training; instead, focus on a comprehensive competency program. Let me explain how it works.


Demystifying Competencies


Most people shudder at the word "competencies" because it sounds complex and painful. But in reality, it's not complicated and doesn't have to be painful. A competency is simply the ability to do something. For example, cleaning a conveyor, testing a metal detector, or recognizing a problem are all competencies. Some individuals can perform these tasks, while others can't.


To help you create your own list of competencies, refer to the provided template by clicking on the link. This template is particularly useful for managing food safety in the food manufacturing industry since many required competencies are standard across the board. Using this template gives you a great head start and brings you closer to achieving your goals.


In a competency program, you start with a competency plan that outlines who should know what. Based on this plan, you identify who already possesses certain competencies and recognize the gaps. The goal is to bridge these gaps rather than duplicating what everyone already knows. Once the gaps are identified, you can take action. Training is one of the ways to bridge these gaps, but there are various other actions to consider. So, hold off on deciding that your team needs more training right away.


Types of Competencies


In creating your competency plan, you'll encounter two types of competencies:



  1. Generic Behaviours: These include behaviours like following the rules, recognizing problems, and reporting situations to management.

  2. Task-Specific Competencies: These are more specific actions such as loading the correct ingredients into a mixer, keeping track of lot codes, and avoiding contamination in the production line.


The challenging part is defining the generic tasks, as they are more abstract and not done on a schedule. However, the good news is that these competencies are universal and already included in the template. This leaves you with the simpler task of customizing the list with tasks specific to your operation and team.


Training Frequency: A Closer Look


How often should you train your crew? That's actually not the best question to ask. Instead, consider why and when you need to train your crew. With a competency program, the focus should be on competencies. At least once a year, you need to evaluate your crew's competencies. Depending on the gaps you find, you might identify specific training needs.


Supporting Your Team Beyond Training


Training is just one method to support your team's competencies, but there are many other activities that might better support their performance. The key is to enable your team to perform well, not just to spend hours in a classroom.


Enhancing Competencies Beyond Training


If it's not all about training, what else can be done to improve competencies? The purpose of a competency program is to ensure that behaviours in the workplace align with the company's needs. Any action that improves behaviour is valid and should be part of your action plan to enhance competencies. The goal is to ensure the appropriate behaviours, not just to meet arbitrary classroom hours.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between competencies and training is crucial for achieving desired outcomes. A comprehensive competency program that includes but is not limited to training will provide more significant results. Focus on identifying and bridging competency gaps, tailoring actions to your team's specific needs, and supporting their performance in diverse ways.


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