The Trifactor Podcast: Aligning Skills, Competencies, and Capabilities for Business Success — Infopro Learning

Mike Alreend
7 min readMay 16, 2024

Organizations face the challenge of defining and managing the relationship between skills, capabilities, and competencies to align with their overall talent strategy. To maximize resources, it’s important to identify when off-the-shelf learning content is sufficient for foundational knowledge and when is it beneficial to invest in customized solutions. L&D departments are vital in driving this strategic approach by consulting business units and advocating for skills-based development. Additionally, measuring return on learning investment is critical; tracking content usage and completion data ensures that investments have a meaningful impact on the business.

Matt Mason, Senior Vice President-Learning Enablement and Technology Director, Truist; Jeffrey Bassett, Senior Vice President, Truist; and Nolan Hout, Senior Vice President, Infopro Learning, tackle these complex questions, offering insights into how organizations can masterfully manage their most valuable resource — their people.

Listen to the podcast to learn more: Expert profile:

Matt Mason

Matt Mason is an accomplished learning and development executive with extensive leadership experience spanning over 27 years. He has held leadership positions at renowned Fortune 100 companies across diverse retail, banking, telecommunications, aerospace, defense, and higher education industries. Matt is widely recognized for his proficiency as a learning and development leader, firmly believing that learning and development is an ongoing expedition. He perceives a company’s learning culture as crucial to its leadership qualities. Matt engages in consultancy and collaborates directly with senior executives and leaders, striving to comprehend their business strategies. He then formulates robust learning solutions and strategies to enhance their overall business performance.

Jeffrey Bassett

Jeffrey Bassett has over 30 years of experience in Financial Services and Learning and development. He is currently working as a Senior Vice President at Truist. As a senior leader, he manages teams across various functions, including training delivery, sales, and operations. Jeffrey specializes in coaching, talent development, and governance of learning technologies. He communicates effectively and collaborates with internal and external partners, including executive management, to drive strategic initiatives and achieve organizational goals.

Nolan Hout

Nolan Hout is the Senior Vice President of Growth at Infopro Learning. He has over a decade of experience in the L&D industry, helping global organizations unlock the potential of their workforce. Nolan is results-driven, investing most of his time in finding ways to identify and improve the performance of learning programs through the lens of return on investment. He is passionate about networking with people in the learning and training community. He is also an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman, spending most of his free time on rivers across the Pacific Northwest.

An excerpt of the discussion follows: Nolan:

Hello everyone.

Welcome to the Learning and Development podcast sponsored by Infopro Learning.

As always, I am your host, Nolan Hout. Today, we have a unique podcast because we’ll have two guests. The first is a familiar face.

We’re excited to welcome back Matt Mason, Senior Vice President and Technology Director at Truist Financial. He enjoyed his last podcast so much that he brought along Jeffrey Bassett, Senior Vice President, Truist.

Jeffrey brings over 30 years of L&D project management experience. Today, we’ll delve into various topics, focusing on their insights about differentiating capabilities, competencies, and skills — and who drives each development. Let’s get started on this tri-factor podcast.

Hello Matt and Jeffrey!


Hey Nolan, Good to see you again!


Jeffrey, welcome! It’s great to have you on the show for the first time. Matt, I think the last time we chatted on the podcast was about six months ago, right?

Can you refresh our listeners on who you are and what you do? Matt:

I’m Matt Mason, a Senior L&D Executive with Truist Financial in North Carolina. With 30 years of experience across Fortune 100 companies, I’m excited to collaborate with Jeffrey on leading the enablement and technology team.


Wonderful. Jeffrey, welcome to the podcast! We’d love to start by learning a bit about your background.

Could you tell us what you do now and how you found your way into the learning and development field?

We know everyone’s path is unique!


Thanks, Nolan! I’m thrilled to be here and ready to contribute. My career path hasn’t been linear — that adaptability is key in today’s world. I’m the Learning Technology Manager at Truist, working with Matt. After 30 years in finance, the last 20 focused on L&D, I found my way to the technology side. I started as an instructor and moved into delivery management. About 10 years ago, my knack for systems led me to where I am now.


Jeffrey, thank you for the great background. This is a perfect segue into what we’re discussing today.

Listeners, get ready for some big-picture thinking! We’ll explore how companies can find the right thinking, process, and technology balance to align skills, competencies, and capabilities. This ensures investments pay off and your tech strategy supports your capability goals.

Could you start by unpacking the idea of combining thinking, process, and tech? What does that look like in practice? Matt:

The whole skills-competencies-capabilities debate can be a hot topic in HR and L&D. My journey with this began back at Lowe’s, where they did a great job defining competencies and aligning them to roles and training.

Today, we focus on skills, and technology has vastly improved. Truist, like many others, face the challenge of tackling the skills initiative in this fast-paced environment. How do we identify, package, and ensure employees have access to the right skills throughout their journey-from recruitment to development?

It’s a big puzzle: Who owns it? Who maintains it? Do we build our system, or buy one? Do we focus on 10 core skills or 100? For Jeffrey and me, the challenge is taking those defined skills and targets and tagging our vast training library to connect it all in a learner-centric way that fosters a learning culture. That’s a struggle many organizations face right now.


You mentioned capabilities, competencies, and skills. These terms often get used interchangeably.

How do you delineate the difference between the three things: Capabilities, competencies and skills? Matt:

You’re spot on — no single, agreed-upon definition of competencies, capabilities, and skills exists. Even a quick Google search shows that. It’s a puzzle that hasn’t been fully solved yet.

I think of competencies as big-picture skills, like leadership or business skills. Capabilities are where knowledge and skills come together to get something done. Then, you’ve got a granular level of skills-niche tech project management or specialized graphic design expertise.

Like Jeffrey and I experienced the other day, the challenge is when those lines blur. Our client talked about capabilities, but I zeroed in on skills. How do we map those back and forth? It’s a work in progress.


You’re right-there’s a lot to unpack, starting with the terminology itself and then figuring out how it connects across the whole talent lifecycle. Competencies seem like that foundational layer-the baseline knowledge of what it means to be a marketer, a salesperson, or whatever the role is. They’re very job or department-focused.

Then, as we dive into skills or maybe capabilities, it gets more specific. According to Google, capabilities are the power to do something that hinges on skills. So, it’s a hierarchy, becoming more granular as it relates to the person’s day-to-day tasks-entering those Salesforce records and building the widget. Jeffrey, what’s your take on this?

Is that how you would have thought? Do you align? You’re allowed to say no to Matt. I’m sure he hears that, but you don’t have to. But do you see it that way, or do you feel like you’re being pulled in a different direction?


Absolutely. This area is evolving; we’re in the early stages in many ways. Everyone defines their own skills taxonomies, which adds complexity when sourcing learning content. Alignment becomes tough if everyone has different tagging skills and their definitions. That’s a challenge we need to solve soon.

The end goal is clear: We want to identify transferable skills easily. That’s especially important given the prediction that 50% of skills will be outdated in five years. We must use skills data for strategic workforce planning to find and develop those gaps.

The big question is: How do we unify our understanding when content comes from different sources with different skill tags? And how do we factor in proficiency levels? There’s much to analyze; as Matt said, we must do this at scale.

This podcast episode also explored the following questions:

  • Question: What do you think about that push that at least we’re seeing where the business is trying to pull a lot of this and add value to their employees, but they’re having to leverage these other internal teams that necessarily don’t report to them?
  • Question: How do you have conversations with leaders like that who aren’t necessarily like this isn’t their world, right? Their world is not learning and development. How do you bridge that gap and communicate with them? How do you have those conversations?
  • Question: How do you measure the capabilities when somebody says I want you to get this content on this niche topic X, Y and Z. Where do you feel the role of L&D starts and stops, and then the role of the business starts and stops?
  • Question: How are you measuring that return on learning investment? I’d love it if you could spend a second explaining how you calculated that.

Originally published at on May 16, 2024.



Mike Alreend

Result-oriented Technology expert with 10 years of experience in education, training programs.Passionate about getting the best ROI for the brand.