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Denise Robitaille


Training and Competence

Not quite cause-and-effect

Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 - 22:00

Subclause 6.2.2 of ISO 9001 is ubiquitously referred to as the training clause. That unfortunately narrows the focus to only one aspect of the requirement. The subclause is situated in the section of the standard that relates to provision of resources. It doesn’t simply require that training be provided; it requires that the human resource that has been provided have the necessary competence for the work to be done.

The organization doesn’t train everyone it employs. For some positions, one must recruit individuals with the requisite training. More precisely, some of them come with advanced degrees in technical fields. If you need a chemist, you’d probably go looking for a person with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering. If you’re in need of a software engineer, you won’t grab the first warm body that comes through the door and assume that he or she can do the work or that, alternately, you will have to provide training in basic computer science. The person must provide evidence of competence in the form of some combination of work experience and education.

Also, things change over time. New technologies emerge. The company expands its product offerings. The organization creates new middle-management positions requiring additional skills. Minimum competencies change.

So, the requirements around 6.2.2 can be broken into three categories:

  • Determination of needed competencies
  • Periodic assessment (and reassessment) of training needs
  • Delivery of training

Each of these categories addresses different aspects of the maintenance and further development of the people needed to sustain the organization and to continue to fulfill customer requirements. It isn’t adequate simply to present records of training. It’s equally important to demonstrate that an individual’s ability to perform tasks has been verified.


What do people need to know? What must they be able to do? To determine if an individual is qualified to perform a task, one must first articulate the criteria for qualification. This is generally done through job descriptions. In other instances, qualifications are linked to specific tasks or product lines. Sometimes, different levels of competency are also defined. In a manufacturing environment, the different levels might include:

1- The ability to run a machine

2- The ability to set up the machine and supervise

3- The ability to program the machine, do set-up, and supervise.

Organizations must develop specifications that define the demonstrated and verifiable competencies at each level. These can be easily derived from work instructions, with salient requirements listed in a bulleted format with check boxes.

Other positions often don’t get the same level of attention in ISO standards systems. What competencies are required for customer service technicians, supervisory personnel, order entry clerks, shippers, and designers?

If there’s an anticipation that training will need to be provided, what minimum competency must persons demonstrate when they are hired? How will you verify that they have the rudimentary skill set to learn the job? This takes us to the second category.

Assessment of training needs

Training needs can come in several different flavors. Questions to ask:

  • What training does an individual need now to do this job?
  • What training (or advanced learning) does a person need to be promoted to a job with more responsibility?
  • Whom do we need to cross-train to ensure that we always have the capacity for this growing part of the business?
  • What kind of training will the acquisition of new software, a new piece of equipment, or the development of a new product line require?

The category should be expanded to include training and education. In some cases, an individual who has great skill and potential is targeted for advancement into a more challenging role. However, to be personally successful and a continuing asset to the organization, that person may need something more substantial than on-the-job training. Individuals often get promoted to supervisory positions without being given any managerial training. The unfortunate result is that they fail because they haven’t received adequate guidance for the new tasks and responsibilities.

Training (or personal development) needs should be assessed periodically. To do otherwise could be likened to failing to perform preventive maintenance on a piece of production equipment. Eventually, the person’s ability to do a good job will erode with predictable implications for the effectiveness of the quality management system.

Finally, the organization has to ensure that the method of delivering the training is effective.

Delivery of training

It’s important to ensure that training is effective. The method of providing the training should receive appropriate consideration. For example, it may be cheaper to do on-the-job training, but will the learning endure?

Similarly, a person may be an expert in a given field, and be a lousy trainer. Expertise doesn’t guarantee training ability. Ensure that in-house training is conducted by competent instructors.

Are your training aids current? If your training aids are more than five years old, there’s a good chance that they’ll be ineffectual for some of the trainees, especially if you’re hiring people for whom English is a second language. You have to ensure that the documents and tools used to conduct training are appropriate.

Can your organization avail itself of self-directed learning courses, Webinars, and other high-technology learning methods? Giving appropriate consideration to what training is to be delivered and the method to be used has enormous influence on its effectiveness.

All of these considerations help to ensure that you maintain a well-trained and competent workforce. It brings more definition and control to the maintenance of your most precious asset—your human resource.


About The Author

Denise Robitaille’s picture

Denise Robitaille

Denise Robitaille is the author of thirteen books, including: ISO 9001:2015 Handbook for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

She is chair of PC302, the project committee responsible for the revision to ISO 19011, an active member of USTAG to ISO/TC 176 and technical expert on the working group that developed the current version of ISO 9004:2018. She has participated internationally in standards development for over 15 years. She is a globally recognized speaker and trainer. Denise is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and an Exemplar Global certified lead assessor and an ASQ certified quality auditor.

As principal of Robitaille Associates, she has helped many companies achieve ISO 9001 registration and to improve their quality management systems. She has conducted training courses for thousands of individuals on such topics as auditing, corrective action, document control, root cause analysis, and implementing ISO 9001. Among Denise’s books are: 9 Keys to Successful Audits, The (Almost) Painless ISO 9001:2015 Transition and The Corrective Action Handbook. She is a frequent contributor to several quality periodicals.