What is competency according to ISO, and how is it different than training?

After 100’s of audits and dozens of implementations this is one of the most shared questions we get as we prepare a client for ISO 9001 and other standards like IATF and AS9100. The short answer can be found in the definition of ISO 9000.

ISO 9000 defines competence as “the ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results”. This is not the same as training, you TRAIN to hopefully DEVELOP competence. Notice we said HOPEFULLY, it is possible to be trained and still be incompetent (we have probably all worked with people that fit this description).

So how can you prove competence, I mean after all training is easy to prove, but how do you prove something as abstract as competence? The truth, however, is that competence is not abstract, it is measurable in the RESULTS.

As an example:  If you are a quality engineer and need to be able to calculate capability indices as part of your duties, the competency of the training can be shown in you getting the right answer on a certain number of calculations ( note that it does not have to be 100%, but it should be applicable to the risk of being wrong).

Another example from a process owner side would look to the KPI’s for the process, if a process owners KPI’s are consistently below target, is that process owner competent (most likely not). In short competency is shown through performance results.

The last part of the question we always get revolves around how to implement competency evaluation in a management system, specifically how can we make it part of what we do normally? The easiest path forward for us, and what we coach our own clients on is to make it part of their performance review, KPI measurement is the measure of how effective the training was, and how competent the individual is at the skill they are applying for the business. You would be shocked how many companies do not bring in meaningful KPI’s into their employees’ performance management.

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