How to identify and close knowledge gaps in the workplace
Knowledge is the foundation of performance in the workplace, which is why it’s so important for companies to identify and close knowledge gaps. The importance of knowledge is sometimes dismissed because it’s not the ultimate goal. Performance is. However, employees can’t make good decisions without the right knowledge. Plus, you can’t Google everything.
Reducing knowledge gaps is an essential part of enabling employees to do their best work. But, in order to close knowledge gaps, you have to find them first.
How to identify knowledge gaps
Before we identify knowledge gaps, let’s clarify what we’re talking about since knowledge gaps shouldn’t be confused with skills gaps or performance gaps. Let’s use a grocery store cashier as an example to define each:
- Knowledge gap: The associate doesn’t know important product codes.
- Skills gap: If the associate doesn’t know the product codes for common items (like bananas), they have to look up extra information. That means they can’t execute a transaction in an efficient and friendly way. The skill gap, then, is their inability to execute the transaction as expected.
- Performance gap: Based on the above examples, the measurable performance gap is a lower scans-per-minute along with a possibly lower CSAT score. Both are common cashier KPIs.
In other words, when an employee lacks information that they need to complete an essential task, that’s when a knowledge gap occurs. A knowledge gap can then lead to a skills gap due to the inability to execute in the moment. This creates a performance gap.
Here are 4 ways you can identify knowledge gaps with various assessments:
1. Pre-training assessments
Pre-training assessments, or quizzes, are an excellent way to determine which knowledge gaps exist before the training begins. In other words, what are the areas of particular deficiency? Pre-training assessments commonly include multiple-choice questions as well as other types of questions. To carry out these assessments, you’ll need to clarify the knowledge requirements for each role based on performance outcomes. Your L&D team should have a complete profile of the essential knowledge that every team member must possess. Gathering this knowledge will require collaboration from L&D and management.
2. Post-training assessments
The same types of assessments and questions can be delivered after training has occurred. Whereas the previous goal was to determine where learning is needed, the goal now is to determine how much of the required information has been learned, understood and retained. You’ll want to deliver post-training assessments immediately after the training and again down the line. An assessment delivered right after training tests short-term retention and the ease of understanding within the training. Ongoing assessments thereafter—including continuous reinforcement—test (and support) long-term retention.
Although self-assessments are generally less reliable than objective assessments, they still provide useful data to gauge how well people understand their own knowledge gaps— as well as their confidence in that knowledge. Provide surveys to inquire about what the participants liked and didn’t like about the learning, what they understood, what they found confusing and what they’d like to learn more about. You can use multiple-choice or Likert scale questions, but make sure to include open-ended questions as well so that participants can offer specific, personalized feedback.
4. Supervisor in-person assessments
Don’t rely on digital assessments alone. A supervisor should observe learners on the job to better determine how well the information has been understood and applied. This is important because ultimately the goal is to inspire the right behavior on the job. Knowledge doesn’t always translate to behavior. In-person observation allows you to expand your insight and even provide one-on-one coaching if needed. Just keep in mind that your physical observations will identify skills gaps more than knowledge gaps. But once you identify which skills are lacking, you’ll be in a better place to determine—and inquire about—which knowledge gaps are present.
How to overcome knowledge gaps
Once you identify gaps, the next step is to close them. In a survey conducted by McKinsey, 43% of respondents identified knowledge gaps as a problem in their organization. If you’ve already identified your own organization as being part of this statistic, it’s time to take action.
1. Determine how to close targeted knowledge gaps
Once you know what the gaps are, the next step is to address them. You’ll need to select the best approach for closing important knowledge gaps based on what works best for the audience. For instance, if you are supporting a contact center, you need to apply a strategy that fits into the few minutes people have between calls. Therefore, a course or a lengthy reading won’t work. Instead, consider quick reinforcement exercises like scenarios that people can complete in a few minutes and require them to apply their knowledge and provide feedback if they make mistakes.
2. Use adaptive technology to identify and target individual knowledge gaps
If you’re measuring knowledge gaps for a retail store, you’ll have some team members who struggle with product codes, others who struggle with point-of-sale features and others who struggle with important compliance points. One way to address this is to use a digital training solution with adaptive learning built in, like Axonify. You input all of the necessary information and training materials, and the lessons are automatically adapted for each individual based on what they already know and what they’re still struggling with. This is a much more effective approach than pushing the same training to everyone based on the most popular gaps (that not everyone has) or the biggest company priority at the moment (which not everyone is likely struggling with).
3. Continue to measure knowledge change
As you address your knowledge gaps, make sure to track each person’s growth to ensure that the desired knowledge is solidified. If you use a learning management system, you should have access to metrics that allow you to see each individual’s progress in real time. You want to look at more than just test scores. You want to measure knowledge growth over time to determine if your tactics are working and how people are improving.
4. Connect knowledge to performance outcomes
Knowledge is only effective when it translates to results. More knowledge equals more skill, and more skill equates to better performance, which impacts results. So rather than simply measuring the knowledge itself, take time to examine how—and if—the added training results in a measurable ROI. What is the net benefit to your business outcomes? Revenue? Customer satisfaction? Productivity? When you can measure a positive correlation, you know that your efforts are making a difference.
How Axonify makes closing knowledge gaps easier
Identifying and closing knowledge gaps doesn’t have to be difficult—if you use technology to your advantage. With a frontline staff training tool like Axonify, you can instill new knowledge, close gaps and cross-skill your employees on a continuous basis.
With its adaptive algorithm, Axonify identifies where each team member is falling short and tailors all instruction accordingly, making it easy to close the gaps with daily questions, confidence assessments, knowledge and behavior profiles and results metrics that connect training to your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs). And all of the information is reinforced regularly using proven microlearning principles.
No matter how you decide to address knowledge gaps, the important thing is to just do it. Don’t let lapses in information hinder your sales, frustrate your customers and derail your business goals. Make knowledge a priority every day.