Circle Insights

Automating competency management: effective, efficient, accurate

Having the ability to automate your competency management process enhances your workforce scheduling, improving output and safety

Ollie Watson

Having the ability to automate your competency management process enhances your workforce scheduling, improving output and safety

When assigning staff to tasks and schedules, understanding their core competencies is essential. As a stark and wholly unfair example, in a transport organisation you wouldn’t assign an accountant to drive a train. Nor would you ask a train driver to look over your accounts. Understanding an individual’s skills, training and experience is essential. It’s essential to the smooth running of your services and the safety of your workers and end users. Competency management is central to this.

Running schedules in a live and constantly evolving environment such as transport is difficult. There’s the basic schedule to adhere to. Then there are events, often beyond your control, which can curtail even the best laid plans. Being able to respond to these unforeseen circumstances swiftly and accurately is the difference between minimising service disruption and lengthy delays or cancelations.

This goes beyond transport, too. In construction, for example, if there is an accident on site or work isn’t carried out to the required standard, it can cause delays and impact the cost of the project.

The most reliable way of minimising such incidents is by having the right people in the right place at the right time. Your competency management framework plays a vital role in this. It achieves this not only by ensuring staff are trained, skilled and experienced, but also by being made transparent and available across your organisation. The link between training, assessment and scheduling needs to be seamless. Information must be available in real-time and events responded to accordingly.

What does real-time competency management look like?

Automation is key here. Let’s take the example of a train driver being assessed. Their ongoing competence is paramount to the smooth and safe running of services. Regular assessments need to be scheduled, conducted and reported on.

Driver A is due for their assessment. The assessor needs to be notified of the need to assess them and they will then go about conducting the assessment. Once the assessment is complete, they will then need to record the outcome of it. If Driver A has passed the assessment, this information needs to be made available to the driver, their management team and the scheduling team. In this scenario, it’s a case of confirming business as usual.

But what if Driver A fails to pass their assessment? In this scenario, further training may be required as remedial action to rectify their error. If the assessor notes Driver A as having failed, there needs to be a swift chain reaction to this. Driver A must be notified, their managers too, plus the scheduling team. Driver A may need to be removed from duty until such a time that they have undertaken the requisite training. This means, therefore, that the training team must be notified, too, with a view to booking Driver A in for training asap.

The scheduling team will then need to arrange to have another driver cover any shifts that they are booked in for. This triggers its own chain of communication, impacting another driver and their ongoing shifts. Regulations around working hours must be factored in and adhered to.

Automating this process makes it more efficient. Information, rather than being siloed by department, can be shared electronically at the point of input. This means that the driver, their managers, the scheduling team and the training department can all act quickly.

How do organisations automate their competency management?

This is a process that Transport for London (TfL) operates through CACI’s Cygnum software. Assessors are assigned to a list of tube drivers who need assessing, they can see their routes and timings and meet drivers at a station that best suits them. The results are recorded instantly and follow-up activities are automatically triggered.

Assessors access a priority list of drivers on the go through Cygnum. They can see where drivers are due or coming up for assessment. This means they can prioritise accordingly. Using the Cygnum Mobile app, assessors can record results on the go, in real time.

Obviously mobile reception can be an issue on sections of the London Underground. Where this is the case, results are stored offline on the app to be uploaded as soon as possible once reception is available again.

With results recorded in or near to real time, TfL’s training and scheduling teams have accurate and up to date information available to them. For the training team, their list of drivers is demand driven, so those drivers who need to receive training most are put to the front of the queue. This minimises frontline absences.

Ongoing training can be enhanced via automation too. Regular checks, from safety briefings to eyesight checks need to be conducted and recorded. Sending reminders and auto-booking people onto courses makes for a smoother process.

Network Rail operates its training management programme through Cygnum. This enables Network Rail to automate vast swathes of its training operation. Mandatory courses are booked in advance, attendance is accurately monitored and results are recorded and shared across the organisation.

The automation of this enables Network Rail to not only keep abreast of its training courses and who needs to attend, but also to inform schedulers of their outcomes. This is essential in keeping the right people in the right place at the right time.


Whilst automation of competency management can be incredibly useful across any transport organisation, it is only as reliable as the data entered into your system. Bringing data together from across your organisation is essential. Where data become siloed, its usefulness is stunted. Creating a single view requires the input of every department.

Automation can make the crucial task of keeping the right people in the right place at the right time more straightforward. It can alert you and your staff of required upcoming training. Assessments can be scheduled well in advance with results logged instantly. Training can be booked when it’s needed, including in a demand-led fashion. Again, making the outcomes of sessions available to the wider business instantly facilitates accurate and timely decision making.

Ultimately, automation of competency management underpins accurate scheduling. Assigning tasks to staff safe in the knowledge that they are the right people to perform such tasks is essential in transport. In any industry with moving parts, being able to make changes in a live environment is also essential. When schedulers and administrators have to manually trawl through records to evidence the changes they wish to make, it wastes valuable time. Being able to instantly understand someone’s suitability for a task, against their core competencies, skills, experience and working patterns, saves time and keeps services moving.

Automation is undoubtedly challenging to achieve, but the results are well worth it.

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Ollie Watson