Are You Building A Safety Competency — Or Just Training?

competencies-2Last issue we began looking at the proper role of training in the development process.  And there I stated the fact that training is not development, and no amount of training can build a safety competency.

A competency is a combination of skills, knowledge and abilities.  A training class can impart rote knowledge, a change in thinking, and a call to commitment to do something different or improve a current practice.  It can even build some initial skills around that knowledge and provide tools for applying it to a post-training environment.

But a competency is built only when skills are consistently applied, developed and reinforced in a real-world setting.  All too often there is an initial spike in performance following a training session as the student begins to try out the new skills he’s learned.

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But then real-life takes over–-the demands of the job, emerging issues, upcoming deadlines, general stress, etc.–-and the student puts the new skills on the shelf and reverts back to the old familiar way of doing things.  Once the crunch time is over, the initial “buzz” of the training has faded and is no longer strong enough to sustain further development.10 things you must know about safety coaching

That’s why training should be viewed only as the beginning of the competency development process.  All training needs to be followed by a systematic development program that includes a competency model (the desired outcome), on-the-job training, performance observations and coaching, and some form of performance test that validates the ability of the student against that competency model.

Hopefully this helps to explain why safety leaders should be focused on performance and outcomes rather than on training, why all of our training and development programs should be performance-based, and why we ought to reject stand-alone “training” classes that have no built-in competency-based development process.  Such an activity is simply a directionless transactional commodity that has no place in the world of learning and development.

That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time be sure all your safety initiatives are built in, not bolted on.



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About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.