Using Competency Frameworks to Conduct Training Needs Analysis

bernadette head only for newsletter-resized-600I was writing a methodology for a Request for Proposal recently to conduct a training gap analysis for an occupational group. As always,   I reflected on my experience conducting similar projects to see what ideas I could come up with. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to use competencies to design training gap analysis in several situations. As always, the competency frameworks provide an excellent basis for this work.

Two of these projects involved identifying training gaps for two health professions at the provincial level. National competency frameworks are a well-established approach within health occupations. The health sector determines the national competencies, which describe the knowledge, skills and attributes expected of the profession. The competencies inform education and training programs and form the basis of national certification exams. In fact, my first introduction to competency frameworks came from my experience setting up a dietetic internship program. I used the national competencies to build learning modules to support interns as they learned how to apply their competencies in a work setting. I also used the competencies to design evaluation and coaching tools within the internship program.

It makes sense to build upon these national frameworks, as they are based on extensive research and consultation with practitioners, and are already accepted by the occupations. Using the existing frameworks as a reference to discover the training gaps in competency terms is a useful and practical approach.


The first project involved identifying training needs for registered mental health nurses. This project was essentially a needs/gap competency study with the development of recommendations for meeting the competency gaps. When presented with this challenge, we saw value in using the national competencies for mental health nurses as the foundation for focus group consultations and surveys, as well as for identifying their training needs. We were then able to develop recommendations for addressing the training gaps of the mental health nurses.

A second project aimed to identify the skills gaps of ambulance attendants within a Canadian province and to develop a training strategy to address their skills gaps at the regional level. The project goal was to increase skill levels of ambulance attendants across the province upwards to the paramedic level. The Competency Group selected to use the national competencies for paramedics as the basis for the skills gap analysis.  The ambulance attendants completed an online self-assessment of their competencies relative to the paramedic competencies. The direct supervisor of each ambulance attendant verified each ambulance attendant’s self-assessment. We compiled individual skills gaps data to define skills gaps on a regional basis and developed recommendations on how to bridge the skills gaps.

These examples show how to use national competency frameworks to identify training gaps for occupations as a whole. The same principles can apply at the organizational level.  You can use the competencies developed for specific jobs to do a training gap analysis for job incumbents. Once the competency gaps are ascertained, you can decide the best way to address them. If training is the most effective solution, (it is important to note that not all performance gaps can be adequately met by training) you can develop customized training or look for existing training content that specifically addresses the competency gaps.

About Bernadette Allen

Bernadette Allen is President of The Competency Group.
Tags: training needs analysis