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Playbook for Workforce Frameworks

The Playbook for Workforce Frameworks is instrumental in supporting a standard approach to developing workforce frameworks to enable interoperability and improve communication, innovation, and mobility across workforces. 

The playbook defines a model workforce framework built on the principles of agility, flexibility, modularity, and interoperability. Its core principles include:

  • The concepts of work and learner are described in terms that can be applied to any organization. 
  • A modular, building-blocks approach based on Task, Knowledge, and Skill (TKS) statements recognizes that all organizations execute common tasks and context-unique tasks that require knowledge and skills to complete. 
  • TKS statements can be used to define Competency Areas, establish Work Roles, and build teams that reflect an organization’s own unique context and needs. 

The playbook details the model framework’s components, including the TKS statement building blocks and their applications as Work Roles and Competency Areas, and provides developers with resources on how to develop these components and describe common uses with their community. The playbook is intended to be a living document, with additional resources being developed to add to it over time.

By describing information about a defined area of work, a workforce framework provides a common language that can improve communication and align stakeholders’ expectations. For example:

  • Employers can use a workforce framework to conduct workforce assessments and identify gaps, improve recruitment and retention efforts, manage employee performance, and establish strategic workforce development initiatives. 
  • Education, training, and certification providers use workforce frameworks to create learning programs and develop curricula and skills assessments that reflect employers’ needs.
  • Learners—including students, job seekers, and current employees—use workforce frameworks to learn about position requirements, identify gaps in their capabilities, and demonstrate their capabilities.

Organizations often face the need to improve workforce development efforts not just in one area but across multiple, related disciplines. Flexible workforce frameworks based on a modular, building-blocks approach enable interoperability, agility, and flexibility Developing a workforce framework from a common model not only leverages existing best practices, but also serves to improve communication among organizations and among disciplines within an organization, which can drive innovative solutions to common challenges and facilitate workforce mobility. By applying a consistent workforce framework model, employers can establish common processes across multiple fields and work roles, and education and training providers can apply a consistent method in developing learning programs across disciplines. 

Task, Knowledge, and Skill Statements

Task, Knowledge, and Skill (TKS) statements are the core building blocks of a workforce framework model. This building block approach encourages interoperability and flexibility in how a workforce framework can be used and applied. Using this model across multiple workforce frameworks provides extensibility and scalability—enabling multiple frameworks, for instance, to reference the same statements when pertinent to more than one field of work.

  • Task statements: Describe the work to be done; they represent a collection of associated concepts and actions defined by Knowledge and Skill statements.
  • Knowledge statements: Describe a retrievable set of concepts within a learner’s memory—that is, what a learner knows.
  • Skill statements: Describe what the learner can do.

Essentially, Task statements define the work to be done and Knowledge and Skill statements define what a learner (including students, job seekers, and employees) must know and be able to do to complete that work. These building block statements are the foundation of Competency Areas and Work

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Work Roles and Work Role Categories

A Work Role is a grouping of work for which an individual or team is responsible or accountable. Work Roles are composed of Tasks that constitute work to be done; Tasks include associated Knowledge and Skill statements that represent a learner’s potential to perform those Tasks. Work Roles are not synonymous with jobs or position titles; a single job may comprise one or more Work Roles. They are frequently used when defining positions and responsibilities. Assessment for Work Roles typically occurs at the Task level. 

Work Roles represent common areas of responsibility for a workforce; roles that are emerging and not fully developed or commonly held in the profession are typically not integrated into a workforce framework model until more mature. Domain areas that are additive to existing Work Roles, cross multiple roles, or that represent emerging areas of work are typically represented as Competency Areas.

 Depending on the number and type of Work Roles represented in your workforce framework, you may consider also created Work Role Categories to group together like Work Roles. 

Learn More: Visit the NICE Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE Framework to see example Work Roles and Work Role Categories

Competency Areas

A Competency Area is a cluster of related Knowledge and Skill statements that correlates with one’s capability to perform Tasks in a particular domain. Competency Areas can help learners discover areas of interest, inform career planning and development, identify gaps for knowledge and skills development, and provide a means of assessing or demonstrating a learner’s capabilities in the domain. Competency Areas consist of a name, description of the area, and group of associated TKS statements. Learner capability in a particular Competency Area can be improved through education, training, or other learning experiences.

Competency Areas offer an opportunity to increase alignment and coordination between employers, learners, and education, training, and certification providers. 

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Both Work Roles and Competency Areas can be used to identify teams in the workplace. 

  • A Work Role-centered approach can be used when the specific Tasks a team will be responsible for is known. This “top down” approach begins by identifying the work that needs to be accomplished, with team members selected based on their ability to complete the defined Tasks. 
  • A Competency Area-centered approach to building teams may be considered “bottom up” and starts by identifying the challenge, with the team then looking at solutions before pinpointing the specific Tasks needed to solve the challenge. In this case, team members are selected based on Knowledge and Skills.


When the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program office updated the NICE Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE Framework (NIST SP 800-181 Rev. 1) in 2020, stakeholders throughout the cybersecurity ecosystem were calling for a more streamlined approach to workforce development. Because cybersecurity is a complex, rapidly evolving arena, it demands an agile workforce and therefore a flexible workforce framework. Further, because cybersecurity is intertwined with other complex, rapidly evolving workforces–such as information privacy and data sciences–as well as newly emerging workforce areas such as artificial intelligence, interoperability among related workforce frameworks would be instrumental in driving usefulness, applicability, and adoption. This playbook describes how developing a flexible, modular workforce framework based on a standardized model facilitates such interoperability.

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Created February 27, 2023, Updated September 8, 2023