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May 3, 2016

Skills: What to Know

In the few last articles, we have used the word “skill” a few times. In order to ensure a common understanding, it’s always important to understand what this word actually means. Although it’s not a new concept, skills are a key element when talking about training. As a teacher or a company, it’s important to be aware of the skill(s) of your students or your employees to ensure the ongoing development. It’s therefore important to try to answer the following questions:

  • What’s a skill?
  • What’s included in a skill?

What’s a skill?

It can be hard to clearly and adequately define a skill. According to Boterf (2004)[1], to act with a skill means the individual knows how to combine and rally relevant resources (knowledge, savoir-faire or know-how, etc) in order to manage a set of situations resulting in an outcome fulfilling certain conditions. These skills can be of a more technical nature (“hard skills”) or more informal (“soft skills”)

What’s included in a skill?

A skill includes knowledge, savoir-faire (or know-how) and interpersonal skills. Combining the three aspects makes it possible to understand the meaning of “skill”. Let’s not forget that the different aspects are all interrelated.

How do we differentiate the three aspects?

Knowledge is what we learn, in short, it’s our overall and global understanding. Savoir-faire or know-how appears through practice. Interpersonal skills are linked to our attitudes, this is the most difficult aspect to develop since it’s so personal.

When understanding these differences, it becomes crucial for any teacher to make sure you are developing the skills of your students throughout the three aspects, for example, along the course of the offered training.

Here is a short example to help you understand:

Global objective of the student: Learn to sell a specific product.

Knowledge: Learn the theory, learn the special features of the product.

Savoir-faire or know-how: Practice, with case studies for examples. The student will understand the different possibilities offered by the different features of the product and how they answer the needs of different clients.

Interpersonal skills: Through more practical exercises, reflecting on interactions, feedback or mock exercises, it’s possible to help promote self-awareness of different aspects and reflexes. In the example above, the student could try to develop his charisma and learn how to read people to understand their needs and create a trusting relationship.

You now know the concept of “skill”, which will help you define your online course strategy. Want to know more? Stay tuned for our next article where we will talk about the third step of creating an online training course: Defining your objectives and training structure.


1. Guy Le Boterf, Construire les compétences individuelles et collectives, Éditions d’Organisation, 2004.

Claudia Marcotte