Do Job Postings Align with the ATD Competency Model?

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Last semester, I worked on a group project where I wrote a book chapter with a few of my peers. This book was self published within a platform called Pressbooks and was an end of course assignment. With all the talk about what instructional designers do or should call themselves, I thought I could share an excerpt of the chapter I wrote.  Each group member took a different setting for instructional designers: higher education, educational corportations (publishing/software), corporate learning and development, and global positions.  For each section, we then set inclusion/exclusion requirements and analysized them according to a schema of our choosing.  My section I decided to compare 25 job postings in corporate L&D to the ATD Competency Model. To code and analyze, I copied and pasted the selected job descriptions and then used the descriptive text for each part of the model to determine if the job description included matching information.  For example, the ATD Competency Model has a Performance Improvement component, so I’d look through the job descriptions to see if they mentioned human performance model in the description.  You can see the coding and all 25 page job descriptions here.  Since this was part of a class project, I want to be respectful of my classmates and only publish my portion as they may/may not want to share. Here is my portion of the chapter: e

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The Diverse Field of Instructional design

The Requirements of learning designers and how instructional design is operationalized in various industries

Bowman, M., Ely, J., North,C.A., & Shortt, M.

Corporate Learning and Development (L&D) Jobs

     According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for learning and development specialists will grow by 11% from 2016-2026.  With learning and development being a constant scapegoat to corporate disasters and poor behavior, it’s clear that instructional designers are high in demand for many reasons.  Many companies turn to learning programs for legal defensibility in some situations and others use it as a punitive option for bad behavior on the job. Regardless of the reason, there are many job openings in corporate learning and development that require a vast array of skills.

     To organize this analysis of corporate job postings, we used the Association for Talent and Development’s (ATD) training and development competency model and its components to classify each job posting.  The Association for Talent and Development is a professional development organization for learning and development professionals. In addition to the national chapter and local chapters, the organization also has a credentialing body where learning and development professionals can become a Certified Professional in Learning Performance (CPLP).  The knowledge test for the CPLP is made up of questions from each area of the ATD Competency Model. Each portion of the competency model has substates that explain more about the piece of the model. The pieces of the model are performance improvement, change management, knowledge management, coaching, integrated talent management, managing learning programs, evaluating learning impact, learning technologies, training delivery, and instructional design. The foundational competencies of the model will also be explored but were not a driving force of this analysis. 

Analysis of the job postings

     In order to compare and analyze corporate learning and development jobs, I set criteria for inclusion and exclusion for the analysis. Here are my main inclusion criteria :

  • Must be full-time job
  • Must use the term “instructional design” somewhere within the job advertisement
  • Must be located in the United States or the United States remote work
  • Must list at least 5 job duties
  • Must have preferred and required qualifications

     We searched on and used the full-time job and United States filter and used the term “instructional designer”.  By doing this it removed about 339 jobs from the first search using “instructional designer”. This yielded 2,068 total jobs and of these jobs, we included the first 25 job postings that used these five criteria.  We then copied the text of each job description into a word processing document to easily use the seek function to find commonalities. We compared the job postings to the ATD Competency model to see how much of the model can be found in the selected sample and which competencies were dominant in the postings.

Performance Improvement

     According to the ATD Competency Model, performance improvement is defined as being able to “apply a systematic process for analyzing human performance gaps and for closing them.”  This is a critical function of many learning and development jobs and also a key component for sharing information to management about behavior change. An example of a performance improvement campaign would be a learning experience focused on a population creating more widgets to raise the outputs at a factory.  

     For this category, the key terms searched throughout the job postings included “gap analysis” and “human performance models”. By doing so, fourteen of the 25 job postings mentioned the need for an instructional designer to have a level of understanding of this competency. A common way this was displayed on a job posting was by using the term “performance support”.  One job posting described it “… staff development to enhance the effectiveness of employee performance in achieving the goals and objectives of the company.” This function was present in associate, mid-level, and senior instructional design roles as well as management.  

Change Management

     Change management was further defined by the ATD Competency Model by “applying a systematic  process to shift individuals, teams, and organizations from current state to the desired state.” In other words, how does the instructional designer facilitate planning for change and support the intervention?  On the job, this can look like a learning campaign focused on a new policy from a company acquisition becoming a core value of the current company. 

     To analyze job postings for components of change management, the key term searched throughout was “change.” Nine of the 25 selected job postings mentioned the need for an instructional designer to have a level of understanding of this competency. One job posting made it clear that the organization’s culture valued change and embraced it. Another job posting shared that change was important for their learning strategy that the instructional designer must create a change management plan to help evaluate the maintenance and lifecycle of learning campaigns. 

Knowledge Management

     Knowledge Management is defined by ATD as “the capture, distribute, and archive intellectual capital to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration.” Other components of knowledge management include benchmarking knowledge management best practices and lessons learned, supporting the development of a knowledge management infrastructure, and transforming knowledge into learning. Based on this definition, an example of this includes creating templates for subject-matter experts to share institutional knowledge to create a learning campaign. 

     To analyze job posting for components of knowledge management, we searched for key terms throughout including “knowledge” and “transfer”. Surprisingly, only nine of the 25 selected job positions mentioned the need for an instructional designer to have a level of understanding of this competency. Ways this showed up in the job postings included “transferring knowledge into learning” as an essential job function and “creating a culture of learning”.  


     According to the ATD Competency model, a learning and development professional uses coaching by “applying a systematic process to improve others’ ability to set goals, take action, and maximize strengths.”  Some components of coaching include managing progress and accountability, displaying a coaching presence, and asking powerful questions. The coaching function for instructional designers can vary from organization to organization, however, coaching skills can be leveraged when working with subject matter experts.  For example, as an instructional designer you will work with at least one difficult subject matter expert throughout your career. This subject matter expert may be difficult for a number of reasons but often it is because they do not want to share institutional data with you for fear of losing their job. An instructional designer well versed in coaching can help the subject matter expert understand the project better and leverage their knowledge as a strength to help others improve throughout the organization.  

     To analyze job posting for components of coaching, we searched for the key term throughout “coaching”. Perhaps the most shocking of all the searches, only one of the 25 job postings mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency. The job posting it was present in listed coaching as a preferred qualification and specifically sought “5+ years demonstrated experience providing coaching and/or feedback to participants, teammates, or associates a plus.” 


Integrated Talent Management

     Integrated talent management is defined by ATD as the ability to “build an organization’s culture, capability, capacity, and engagement through people development strategies.”  Some of the essential functions of this competency include coordinating workforce and succession planning, supporting engagement and retention efforts, and aligning talent management to organizational objectives.  An example of how an instructional designer would work within the integrated talent management competency is to create career pathways through training at an organization. For example, if a widget-maker would like to become a senior widget-maker, using skills in the integrated talent management would enable an instructional designer to develop curriculum and learning experiences to help upskill someone to the next level. 

     To analyze job posting for components for talent management, we searched using the key term “talent”.  Three of the 25 job postings mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency.

Managing Learning Programs

     The way that managing learning programs are defined by the ATD is to “provide leadership to execute the organization’s people strategy; implements training projects and activities.”  Some components of this competency include to ensure compliance with legal, ethical, and regulatory requirements, manage and implement projects, and develop and monitor the budget.

     To analyze job postings for components of managing learning programs, we searched for key terms throughout including “budget” and “manage.”  Twelve of the 25 job postings mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency.  For this competency, most of twelve postings (10) had managing learning programs as a preferred qualification.

Evaluating Learning Impact

    Evaluating learning impact is defined by ATD as the ability to “use learning metrics and analytics to measure the impact of learning solutions.”  Some ways instructional designers evaluate learning impact can include selecting appropriate strategies, research design, and measures. The analyze the job postings for components of evaluation learning impact, we search for key terms throughout including “evaluation”, “data”, and “analytics.

     Like managing learning programs, twelve of the 25 job postings mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency.  Once again, ten of the job postings listed this as a preferred qualification.

Learning Technologies

     “Applying a variety of learning technologies to address specific learning needs” is the way that ATD defines learning technologies.  In practice, this can include the ability to use technology effectively across the different areas of expertise and identify when and how to use technology as a learning and development solution. 

     To analyze job postings for components of learning technologies, we searched for key terms throughout including “technology”, “LMS”, and tool.  Fourteen of the 25 mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency. Many of the fourteen named specific software packages including Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and various names of learning management systems.

Training Delivery

     The term training delivery can make one think of face-to-face training, however, this is not always the case. Training delivery is defined by ATD as the ability to “deliver informal and formal learning solutions in a manner that is both engaging and effective.”  Some specific ways instructional designers perform training delivery can include aligning learning solutions with course objectives and learner needs as well as create learning activities that are engaging.  

     To analyze job postings for components of training delivery, we searched for key terms including “facilitation” and “delivery”.  Six of the 25 job descriptions mentioned the need for instructional designers to have a level of understanding of this competency.  A reason for this could be because, in many of the job postings, instructional designers often are the ones creating digital artifacts.  Interestingly, none of the selected job postings mentioned anything about facilitation in an online environment despite many organizations having virtual classrooms

Instructional Design

     “The design and development of formal and informal learning solutions using a variety of methods” is how instructional design is defined by ATD.  What does that mean in practice? Some examples include identifying appropriate learning approach, designing a curriculum, and developing instructional materials. 

     The keywords used to code for instructional design include “instructional design” and “ADDIE”.  All twenty-five job postings included a mention of instructional design with 7 specifically mentioning ADDIE.

So if you made it this far, here is a TL;DR recap:

I coded 25 job descriptions based on inclusion criteria against the ATD Competency Model.  Parts of the model that had low representation include coaching, integrated talent management, change management, and knowledge management.  Only 7 of the twenty-five job postings mentioned ADDIE, potentially showing a shift away from the waterfall design method and a push for a more agile approach.  

In a follow up post, I will share my analysis, some of the limitations of doing this kind of research, and broadly share other conclusions.

What did you think?  Were you surprised by any of this? Let me know!



3 thoughts on “Do Job Postings Align with the ATD Competency Model?

  1. It was surprising to see the extremely low number for knowledge management. Sad to see that coaching was low as I can definitely see the importance of it. Wondering if there was some other terminology that referred to communication or relationships.

    Anything that was found that was similar across a high number of postings and was missing from the competency model?

  2. This is a great post and I look forward to the analysis!

    I am fairly new to ID, with most of my training experience being part of other job positions. I received my masters in June 2018 and have been interviewing steadily for the last year.

    I have to say, I was a bit surprised by the inconsistency in Instructional Design job descriptions during my search. I feel like every position has different requirements, but almost all ask for 5+years of experience in an ID position.

    Out of the dozens of interviews I have had, I think only one has asked about the design models. The only consistent questions I get are, “What kinds of training have you done?”, “How many people?”, “Have you worked with a difficult person? How did you handle that?”

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