19 Nov, 2013

Excellence in Workforce Development - Part 1


The SMRP Body of Knowledge is the best there is. But how do you know if your people can demonstrate their competence? How are you going to replace your retiring, experienced personnel with competent people who can perform on the job? How do you manage safety with safe work behaviors by competent people? In a growing number of societal areas, we are using ‘leading indicators’ to help people choose safer behaviors that prevent accidents.

For instance:

  • Advertisements tell us a person texting while driving is 23 times more likely to have an accident.
  • Regular exercise and good eating habits help prevent illness and may lead to a better quality of life over the long run.
  • Many preventive and predictive maintenance activities are designed to find evidence of potential failure. Indeed, reliability-centered maintenance identifies bad actors and predicts the probability of component failure. [As an aside, the paradigm shift from lagging indicators (like unexpected failures) to true planning and scheduling and embedded reliability-centered maintenance, uses leading indicators to manage. This may be a key reason why it is so hard to break reactive maintenance behaviors!]


Workforce development programs using competence identification and performance assurance are using leading indicators to solve these dilemmas. This presentation will report on the latest developments in these programs and some of the lessons learned from over a decade of designing and implementing competency-based workforce development projects in industries across the globe.

It is a tale of the developmental evolution of more capable workforces and brings us up to today’s leading edge. What works and what to avoid will help you evaluate and build a sustainable development program.

SMRP was founded on the principles of competence and has created a standard competency system for maintenance and reliability management, called the Body of Knowledge (BoK), to which all others are compared. The BoK is the gold standard for our profession! For those of you who are not familiar with our Body of Knowledge, it has five pillars, three levels of definition and over 500 specific competencies written and approved by our body of professionals. It is available to all members and may be purchased through SMRP.


Before we continue, we need to define some terms that we will use:

Skill - A skill is a particular ability to do something. A skill might be “Prioritize Work Orders”

Competency - A level of proficiency for any given Skill

  • Awareness - Someone with an Awareness level of a specific skill can describe area’s purpose(s) and key concepts; Recognizes what can be routinely done.
  • Fundamental Application - Someone with a Fundamental Application level of a specific skill has the practical capacity and/or attitude necessary to recognize when to apply subject area skills in ‘normal’ situations
  • Skilled Application - Someone at the Skillful Application level of a specific skill has the knowledge, attitude and practical capacity necessary to apply the skill without help or reference to notes in normal situations, solve simple problems, has done it numerous times, and can recognize abnormal situations/ cases.
  • Mastery - Someone with a Mastery level of a specific skill has the knowledge, attitude, and practical capacity to routinely handle difficult cases, analyze abnormal cases, solve difficult problems, and invent new techniques.


Assurance - Verification and record that a person can perform at a defined level of competence in a certain skill. This is more than knowledge testing; it involves field verifications, practical factor demonstration, job mentoring, on the job performance support and personal / peer / supervisor assessments.

Experience - Sum total of a person’s performance over a period of time.

Slight variations on these definitions exist in different systems and companies, but for this presentation, we'll stick with these.

Stay tuned for Lessons Learned from Successful Workforce Development Programs...