The Corporate Knowledge Crisis: 3 Things Businesses can do About the Employee Knowledge Gap
There’s a knowledge crisis permeating the corporate world, and it’s only getting bigger. The evolution of technology has facilitated access to more information than ever before, but the endless flood of facts and figures has left employees drowning in data. A study by Bersin by Deloitte reports 65-75 percent of organizations have an “overwhelmed employee” problem. The high volume of information means employees often don’t know what information to focus on or even where to find it. The trouble is, it isn't so easy to just Google something for work. According to IDC, 44 percent of the time, most employees can’t locate the answers they’re looking for and, if they do manage to find what they need, 61 percent of employees say they have to access four or more systems to do it.
When employees don’t have the right information in their heads or at their fingertips, it’s impossible to take the right actions on the job, let alone perform at their best. The consequence of employees not knowing who, what, when, where, why or how materializes in inadequate customer service, missed sales opportunities, safety issues and more, that end up costing the company millions or billions of dollars.
While many organizations think they provide employees with the information they need to be successful, most aren’t doing it in a way that helps employees transfer it to a real work environment. In fact, according to a report by Aberdeen, 49 percent of organizations say their main challenge is ensuring that what is taught is actually understood and applied on the job. However, before organizations can overcome this challenge, they need to make a fundamental shift in how they approach training in the first place. Instead of simply “delivering learning,” employers need to focus on “building knowledge.” This involves providing the right learning in the right way, so employees can grow their knowledge each day, sustain it long term and apply it correctly where it matters most—at work. Without this shift, employers won’t be able to close employee knowledge gaps that could have a detrimental impact on the business. Here are three training approaches geared towards solving this problem:
1. Ditch Macro for Micro
Instead of holding day-long, death-by-PowerPoint training sessions that are met with blank stares, or sending employees to complete lengthy, snooze-inducing e-learning courses via an LMS, chunk information into smaller, distinct microlearning modules that employees can learn over time. The research speaks for itself. Companies with microlearning in place experience 63 percent greater year-over-year improvement in revenue per full-time equivalent than companies without microlearning in place (Aberdeen). Here are five key advantages of microlearning:
- Employees are less likely to feel overwhelmed or stressed when they can focus on learning only a few things at one time.
- The information is easier to digest and remember because it’s broken down into bite-sized pieces.
- Learning can be more personalized since employees only need to take the training modules that relate to their specific job and level of expertise.
- Small content chunks can be updated much more easily and efficiently than when it is integrated into lengthy sessions.
- Standalone modules allow content to be formatted in a way that best suits the material instead of being force fitted into an existing framework.
2. Repeat. Test. Adjust. Measure.
While going the micro route is a step in the right direction, it isn’t enough. Training is pointless unless employees can actually transfer that learning into knowledge and apply it on the job. To do this, they need to get this information into their heads so it becomes second nature. Think about it. If someone tells you something once, you’re prone to forget it. But, if that person keeps telling you the same thing over and over again, it’s more likely to stick in your head. The same goes for training. By providing short doses of microlearning that focuses on the same subject matter, and testing recall daily by asking employees to answer questions about the content, this helps employees solidify that information in their memory.
By taking this concept a step further, it’s possible to identify knowledge gaps and adjust the content accordingly to get employees up to speed. By continuing to measure knowledge growth and adjust the content, employees gradually close these knowledge gaps as they build their expertise. Although this would be an onerous task if done manually, today, technology exists that uses a combination of microlearning, gamification, knowledge-on-demand performance support and brain science techniques to help employees build knowledge each day so they can do their jobs more effectively. This software also tracks the transformation of learning into knowledge, helps measure job performance and, ultimately, proves this knowledge ha sa positive and significant impact on business results.
3. Gamify to Boost Engagement and Knowledge Growth
There’s nothing worse than someone adding one more thing to an already jam-packed to-do list. But, if training can become more of a fun break from regular work, employees will actually look forward to it. One way to do this is by gamifying learning. When you incorporate things like game play, friendly team competition and rewards, training can move from the bottom of an employee task pile to the top—or, at least, close to it. By gamifying learning, it increases the frequency of employee participation in training. While it’s important to use a combination of game mechanics to increase participation in training, it’s essential to make sure rewards are a part of that.
While overflowing inboxes, incoming text messages, phone calls and human interruptions have become the norm in today’s modern workplace, the sheer volume of information has caused knowledge gaps to widen instead of shrink. There’s simply too much for employees to process. By replacing nice-to-know firehose training methodologies with need-to-know knowledge-building approaches, organizations not only close knowledge gaps that elevate employee performance and allow the business to thrive, but they avert an employee knowledge crisis in the first place.
Carol Leaman is the president and CEO of Axonify.