Why Time To Proficiency Matters

Why Time To Proficiency Matters

Most organizations underestimate the time it takes for employees to be productive. Every day an employee is not fully up to speed, it costs the organization money in terms of lost productivity, increased errors, and often lost customers.

For instance, 66% of employers experiencing skills gap issues reported that lack of proficiency among their staff had an impact on overall organizational performance. This, according to the research, led to increased workloads for other staff, followed by higher operating costs and difficulties meeting quality standards.

In this article, we will discuss:

  •  What is Proficiency?
  •  What is Time To Proficiency?
  •  Factors that affect Time To Proficiency
  •  Conclusion
Table of Contents

What is Proficiency?

Several definitions exist for the word proficiency. According to the Cambridge dictionary, proficiency means having the skills and experience for doing something.

Steve Rosenbaum, the co-author of Learning Paths, defined proficiency as being able to perform a given task or function up to a pre-determined standard.

Whichever definition you go with, one fact remains – a proficient person is able to perform a given task up to a predetermined of performance on a consistent basis. Proficiency can be defined in numbers of transactions, dollars sold, defect rates, customer satisfaction scores, or anything else that is measurable and related to results.

Let us consider five salespeople who work in a team. If the average calls per salesperson per day is 10, then whoever meets this performance target on a consistent basis is the most proficient.

What is Time To Proficiency?

Time To Proficiency (TTP) is a common term that is used interchangeably with “Time to Productivity” and “Time to Speed”. So, what exactly is Time To Proficiency?

‘Time To Proficiency’ is the time it takes an individual to reach a predetermined level of proficiency. In other words, TTP is the time from day one it takes an employee to be able to perform a task without supervision and up to a predefined level of proficiency.

Chief Learning Officers (CLOs), managers, HR executives, and employees are all concerned about TTP. The faster new hires are brought up to speed, the faster they can adequately fulfil their job duties, and the more they can add value to the organization.

However, most organizations do not have an objective, predictable and scalable way of assessing where employees currently are and where they are supposed to be in terms of skills and competencies. More alarming is the fact that it is also difficult for organizations to come up with a step-by-step plan to reduce employees’ TTP.

Truth be told, it takes time for new employees to get up to speed. New hires or employees who are in a new role often get frustrated when managers, learning and development/HR perceive them to be slow or ‘not yet proficient’ at their jobs. 

Exhibit 1: Employees’ Time To Proficiency

Why Time To Proficiency Matters

Factors that affect Time To Proficiency (TTP)

The following are the factors that affect Time To Proficiency:

Role Clarity

Role clarity means being clear about the roles, responsibilities and expectations in line with the job position. If jobs roles and responsibilities are not clear, individuals will be left in the dark. Without a clear understanding of the expectations and behaviors which are aligned with the goals of people’s jobs, individuals will take a longer time to be proficient at what they do.

Assessment against Roles

Many organizations solely rely on résumés (CVs) and interviews for assessing candidates’ skills and competencies. Research has shown that traditional methods such as CVs and interviews, often don’t yield the best result. For instance, 85% of résumés contain lies. Similarly, interviews — especially unstructured ones — are subjective and ultimately serve as poor predictors of job performance.

It is critical for organizations to have a candidate assessment tool or framework that allows individuals (e.g. a job candidate) to show evidence of competencies.

Training Needs Analysis

It’s very important to know how employees are ‘faring’ with regard to their skills and competencies. If this is not the case, shortening the ‘Time To Proficiency’ becomes illusive.

Providing evidence-based assessment for employees helps to uncover areas for improvement. Understanding employees’ skills gap based on the variance between job skill requirements and validated skills ensures that employees are well aware of the proficiency or competency levels.

Learning Action Plan

Research shows that only 38% of managers believe their learning programs meet their learner’s needs. Evidently, learning is not tailored to an individual’s specific learning needs. Not aligning learning and development initiatives impedes employee’s productivity.

Supporting systems

Learning and gaining knowledge have gone beyond the four walls of a training room. People learn every day and every week via web searches, peer-to-peer interactions, articles, or videos. People learn informally.

As individuals and organizations make plans for shortening TTP, it is imperative to have a system in place to help achieve this objective. Playbooks, job aids, processes, policies, checklists, etc. are examples of systems that need to be in place for any TTP to be accelerated.


Time To Proficiency is a metric that measures how long it takes an individual to get up to speed to be able to add value to the organization. With competency-based development, productivity can increase massively as low and average performers gravitate towards becoming superior performers.

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