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Competencies are a great way of validating and developing skills within you organisation. Competencies are available in both Totara Learn and Totara Perform.

If you have Totara Learn only then you will not have some of the extended capabilities of competencies, but you will have the ability to use competencies with learning plans. 

If you have Totara Perform only then you will not be able to use competencies with learning plans, as this feature is only available with Totara Learn. However, you will have access to some extended competency features including competency profile, competency assignments, and achievement paths. 

If you have both multitenancy and tenant isolation enabled then competencies will not be available for your site's users.


By identifying skills gaps you can target competencies at particular individuals, positions or other groups of users to upskill your existing staff. By focusing on improving your existing workforce you can:

  • Respond to market changes
  • Improve employee engagement
  • Offer career development
  • Increase talent retention
  • Boost revenue and profitability

Working with competencies

Within Totara you can use competencies to map skills to people, and then map competencies to various forms of achievement, including courses, other competencies and manual ratings (when a user or manager rates a competency level).

Additionally if you have Totara Perform then by setting up achievement paths you can decide how competencies are achieved. With Totara Perform you can also set different achievement requirements for each rating of a competency. For example, a user could be automatically given the 'Competent with supervision' based on their assignment to the competency for holding a certain position - as you might assume this level of competency is a requirement for even being hired in that position. They may then have to complete courses or other competencies to achieve the 'Competent' rating with an optional 'Highly competent' rating available to be manually given by their manager. 

The user competency profile in Totara Perform allows users and their managers to track progress in all assignment competencies - making it clear what needs to be done to achieve a higher rating. There are also a number of graphs here that show competencies mapped against various positions, so that users can easily see what competency rating they need in a certain competency for their position. For example you might need a higher competency rating for the 'Fire safety' competency if you are a Fire Marshal than if you are a regular employee.

Building competencies 

When building new competencies there is a basic flow that will be taken in most cases. 

  1. Create or edit a competency framework for your competency to sit in.
  2. Create or edit the competency scale that will define the criteria used to rate your competencies. 
  3. Optionally, you can create competency types to allow you to add custom fields to a competency item.
  4. Create your competency item. This is the individual competency item that sits within your framework. 

If you have Totara Perform you can then additionally do the next two steps: 

  1. Once you have created one or more competency items you can then add achievement paths for them. This is the set of parameters that need to be met in order for a specific competency rating to be awarded. 
  2. Finally you will need to go to the competency assignments section to assign the competencies to different users or groups of users (such as audiences and positions). 

Totara Academy

The Totara Academy has a whole course dedicated to using Competencies in Totara. Here you can learn more on how to use competencies, see best practice, and give it a go yourself.

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