Using Bloom’s to Write Competency Descriptions

So You’ve Created a Competency Structure. What’s next?

Tom White, VP of Product Management for Kahuna Workforce Solutions, published an article listing out five considerations of a competency framework. They are:

  1. Navigation – Does the competency library follow a sound hierarchical competency structure with clear parent-child relationships?
  2. Ownership – Which groups own the competency framework?
  3. Competency Assessment Type – How are the competencies assessed?
  4. Assessment Process – How are candidates assessed?
  5. Commonality of Competency – Are global competencies shared by various groups?

In his article, Tom attached an example of a structure, which clearly illustrates that the relationships of the structure’s nodes must make sense to the job and align with the strategic objectives of the business.


However, once you’ve constructed the structure, then what? How might you compose the competency descriptions so that they could readily be converted to their derivative products, such as job descriptions, training solutions, interview guides, and of course, assessment tools?

Creating a solid skill and competency management framework is a difficult endeavor. Fortunately for us, many have paid with blood, sweat, and tears to make competency framework creation a bit more do-able. In fact, with the exception of technical skills unique to a company, experts recommend using commercially-available competencies instead of re-inventing the wheel.

Competencies and Bloom’s Taxonomy

In this article, I introduce a simple method that my company, Competence IQ, utilizes to create unique competency management frameworks and descriptions for our clients. We call it the BBCF, or Bloom’s-Based Competency Framework. In order to keep this article brief, I will assume that you have a basic understanding of Instructional Design (particularly, job and task analysis) and Bloom’s Taxonomy (specifically, the Cognitive domain). If you need a refresher of Bloom’s, here’s the Wikipedia link.

Competencies are measurable standards of skills, knowledge, abilities, and attitudes that determine the desired performance and behaviors for a specific role at a particular level. Competence may be acquired through education, training, and experience. Because gaps in competencies drive the demand for learning, they are directly linked to educational objectives. It, therefore, makes sense to use the proper Bloom’s Cognitive domain verbs to compose competency descriptions and their corresponding tasks. This technique is particularly useful for my fellow learning professionals because the competency statements can easily be converted into gap-filling educational objectives.

Combining Both

Many of us, particularly learning professionals, are familiar with the concepts illustrated in the graphic below, which suggests certain action verbs appropriate to progressive skill levels.


Many of us are also familiar with competency maps, such as the generic one below.


To create a Bloom’s-Based Competency Framework, we combine both to produce a framework, such as the four-level competency framework below.


In the framework above, notice the following:

  • The framework is specific to a job role. For example, Field Service Specialist.
  • The framework includes a combination of Registers. For example, Technical, Leadership, Sales, Safety, Compliance, etc.
  • The competency levels (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Master) distinguish a trainee from an expert. For most companies, the Advance level is the “competent” level.
  • Bloom’s verbs are used in the competency description for each level. Generic ones are provided for you.
  • Bloom’s verbs are used in the competency task descriptions for each level. Using a Field Service Specialist as an example, Level 1 – Basic competency tasks may be worded as: Given the Acme tool at the workshop, the specialist will  be able to do the following in a reasonable amount of time:
    • Describe the purpose and function of the tool.
    • Describe at least three applications of the tool.
    • List the tool’s major components.
    • Describe the purpose and functions of the tool’s major components.
    • Explain how to find documentation about the tool.

BBCF has many advantages. Here are a few:

  1. Filling competency gaps through training development – if training is indeed the solution to fill skills gaps, the Competency Descriptions convert to overall course goals and the tasks convert to course terminal objectives.
  2. Assessments are specific, observable, and measurable. Either you can or can’t perform the indicated task.
  3. The verbs essentially become SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Time-bound)


Creating a competency framework can take less time and effort by combining the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy, selecting appropriate verbs, and leveraging from the examples above.

Almost all established companies have some sort of competency management “system.” But only a handful are ahead of the game because they have systems that can meet compliance requirements and produce measurable positive impact to the bottom line by allowing the business to manage its talent strategically.

Obviously, there’s more to competence management than just the competency framework. There’s competency management technology, a worthwhile investment that will give your company a competitive edge. Want to continue the conversation and kick-start your competency management program? Get in touch.

Originally Posted by Jason Ramos – Founder, President, and Chief Consultant for Argonaut Enterprises, Inc. – Competence IQ | Competence IQ is a boutique consulting company that specializes in a turnkey competence management methodology — Three-squared, Plus. Previously posted on LinkedIn.

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