Increasing employee retention with combined management of career goals, competencies, and training interventions

Thursday, 12. May 2016
Diana Dikke, IMC AG, Germany


In the information and knowledge driven society we live in, human capital becomes the key factor determining a company’s success. These are employees, who apply their knowledge, competencies, and experience to generate new ideas. Such as designing new products, and in turn they open new fields for the business development. They are investing their creativity and passion for innovation into the prosperous future of the company. These are employees spending many hours daily, maintaining and improving existing products and services. Ultimately, these are employees meeting the customers and assuring that their needs are met with the company’s offers. Keeping this in mind, it is important for companies to take the time to invest in their employees and appreciating the value of human capital.

“Take our 20 best people away, and I will tell you that Microsoft will become an unimportant company”  (Bill Gates)1.

The replacement of a key staff member can cost a company over €50,0002 and have consequences for its monetary and non-monetary assets (e.g. loss of knowledge and expertise in key operational fields, loss of personal connection to a key customer, etc.). So, why do employees leave? According to a survey conducted by the market research company Harris Interactive on behalf of the online employment agency CareerBuilder3, this is rarely the result of financial issues. On the contrary, employees leave if they think that their efforts are not recognised, if they miss promotions or are frustrated due to the lack of further development opportunities. Thus, in order to retain HR potential within the company in the long term, it is crucial to provide possibilities for career development within the organisation, taking into account employees’ achievements and personal goals.

It’s imperative for companies to be aware of these as daily hurdles in the maintained and balance of their work force. There are modern approaches to integrated talent management as well as management of competencies, personnel development goals, and training interventions, encourage overall alignment in goals, not just for the individuals but for the company as a whole. For example, the EU research and development project PROLIX (Process-oriented Learning and Information eXchange) and its follow-up innovation transfer project COCAL (Combined management of competencies and learning resources) investigated methodologies to bring training interventions in line with company’s business processes. This is aimed to enable organisations to faster improve the competencies of their employees according to continuously changing business requirements4.

The following five steps describe a simplified example of such a methodology for combining process, competency, and learning management5.

  1. The mission of the company determines its market strategy, as well as main business goals (in terms of offered products and services, their quality, customer relationships, revenues, and so on) and business processes to be applied to achieve these goals.
  2. For each business process, key roles are identified, each requiring a set of available competencies and experiences to be successfully performed. These key roles are grouped by business process allowing hierarchical differentiation between several career levels, and defining possible career paths within one or between several role groups.
  3. Based on the target job roles defined in the previous step, a competency taxonomy documenting competencies required in the company and their measurement scales is created. Depending on the size of the company and variety of job profiles, such competency taxonomies can contain from a dozen to several hundred competencies and include some hierarchical levels.
  4. Each employee has a unique set of competencies and experiences. These can be assessed using various methods, such as self-assessment, interview, questionnaire, 360-degrees feedback, evaluation of work results and reports, competency simulation, and others.
  5. After the assessment is completed, available competencies (and achieved proficiency levels) are compared with competencies required by a position anticipated by the employee. This way competency gaps are identified and training interventions can be planned to help the employee reach the desired position.

There are multiple software products/solutions on the market supporting this or similar methodologies. These products allow matching job roles and required competencies with competencies already achieved by the employees, as well as automatic recommendation of learning resources suitable to close competency gaps. However, there are some limitations associated with the use of such software. For example, adequate measurement of soft skills, combination of the assessment results provided by different parties (e.g. self-assessment vs. assessment by the supervisor) and their validity, consideration of employee’s interests in the automated career path planning, etc.

DEVELOP project will create a personalised learning environment (PLE) based on an existing competency management software (coming from the PROLIX and COCAL projects mentioned above) with the aim to overcome some of the current limitations, particularly setting the focus on the needs of the employees. This PLE will provide visualisation tools based on artificial intelligence technology, presenting possible career paths to the employee and allowing an informed decision on the career path and associated training measures. Furthermore, the PLE will support assessment of transversal competencies using game-based technology, providing more accurate results compared to other methods. Finally, the PLE will support assessment of the social capital, assisting the employee in extending her network with relevant contacts.

DEVELOP aims to provide a methodological and technological solution allowing increasing employee retention in companies by means of intelligent career and learning planning. This will be based on the measurement of the employee’s competencies and taking into account employee’s goals, interests, and development potential. Currently, in close cooperation with research and industrial partners, especially learning and talent management technology vendors. As well as including HR departments of large and medium companies, the DEVELOP consortium elaborates requirements from software providers and potential users on the personnel development processes to be in place and the resulting future software prototype. In the future publications, we will inform the reader about the research and implementation topics of the project as well as about the progress of the project activities.



1. Gates, B. In: 12 Manage – The Executive Fast Track, HRM quotes. Available at:, Retrieved on 09.05.2016.

2. See HR Review: Retrieved on 09.05.2016.

3. See CareerBuilder: One in Five Workers Plan to Change Jobs in 2014. Available at:  Retrieved on 09.05.2016.

4. See

5. Representation of the author, based on the findings of PROLIX and COCAL projects.