Companies that link employee skill development to business strategy have a 40% higher total shareholder return than companies that do not. That's the key finding of a study of over 1,000 organizations that was released earlier this month by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The most essential ingredient to skill development: a clearly defined set of competencies for workers. "Competencies provide employees with a map of opportunities that is unique to their organization," says George Bailey, global practice director for the Human Capital Group at Watson Wyatt. "By following that map, employees acquire the skills they need to manage their own careers [and] contribute to the organization's success."