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Managing the Competence of the Regulatory Body

​The ability of a regulatory body to fulfill its responsibilities depends largely on the competence of its staff. Building employees’ knowledge, skills and attitudes is an investment in each employee and in the future of the organization.

Competence is the combination of Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSAs) needed by a person to perform a particular task. All three domains are important and interrelate.

Regulatory bodies are required to have a management system for the management of their activities. Competence management needs to be integrated into the management system. The transparency and auditability, inherent in such a system, facilitates self-assessment and supports the confidence of interested parties in the regulatory body’s processes and competences.

Safety Reports Series No.79, which is about to be published, provides guidance on managing the competence of staff in a regulatory body.

The quadrant model of competences for regulatory bodies

A conceptual model has been developed to aid discussion and analysis of competence needs. Each individual in a regulatory body and each group of individuals needs to have a combination of these competences (to an appropriate level or extent) in order to exercise the functions or tasks. The competence model is based on a quadrant structure of competence.


Systematic Assessment of Regulatory Competence Needs (SARCoN)

A methodology and tool have been developed by the IAEA (and used extensively by member states´ regulatory bodies) to facilitate the analysis of competence needs, available competences and competence gaps. The Systematic Assessment of Regulatory Competence Needs (SARCoN) for Regulatory Bodies of Nuclear Installations provides a practical means for the Member States to put into practice a systematic approach to competence management, particularly in the area of defining competence profiles and competence needs assessment. To find out more, please visit »

Methods of aquiring competence

The safety report also gives advice on methods of acquiring or matching competence to the needs of an organization identifying five categories of acquiring competence:

    • Knowledge framework for education and training
    • Education and training in the IAEA to support capacity building and competence management
    • Knowledge networks are established to promote the pooling, analysis and sharing of nuclear technical, safety and security knowledge and experiences at national, regional and international levels
    • The IAEA also established steering committees whose mission is "To advise the IAEA on how to best assist Member States to develop suitable competence management systems for their regulatory bodies".
  1. Reorganization and replacement
    • The analysis of competence needed may show some competence gaps at an individual or sub divisional level but no significant gaps at the level of the whole organization. Revising the division of responsibilities and tasks within the organization or placing members of the staff in new positions may provide a method to address competence gaps.
  2. Recruitment
    • The recruitment strategy within a regulatory body will depend on a number of factors. These factors are likely to change with time and hence the regulatory body will need to review the strategy periodically to establish whether it is still appropriate and viable. If new or relatively new graduates or people from disciplines unrelated to nuclear facilities and activities are recruited, more extensive training programmes will be required to establish appropriate competences in scientific and technological areas.
    • It is inevitable that all new staff will need training even if they have the technical competences needed by the organization. This is because it is necessary to instill in such recruits the culture of the regulatory body and establish in them some of the competences described in the competence model they may lack.
  3. Use of external support
    • It may though be practicable for the regulatory body to use external support in some cases.
    • When using external support, it is important that the regulatory body have competences to enable it to be an “intelligent customer” to control the work done for it. It needs to have sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge and experience.
Embarking Countries

States have declared an interest in "embarking" on or considerably expanding nuclear power programmes. This puts additional pressure on the existing pool of regulatory staff. There is therefore a need to establish programmes to develop the competence of their regulatory bodies. The new safety report has an appendix with considerations specifically for embarking countries.

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