The Knowledge Crisis: the signs are all around us
It’s a problem that’s only getting bigger. Employees increasingly need to know more information in less time. And with rapid and continual changes in technology and information, they’re finding it harder and harder to keep up.
This leaves them without the knowledge they need to take the right actions at work. The consequences are dire: lost sales revenue, poor leadership performance, and increased safety incidents are just a few of the things organizations are experiencing. And this is costing millions—even billions of dollars.
What’s causing this knowledge crisis? We think there are four main reasons:
1. Job expectations are increasing
Today’s employees are required to have more knowledge and skills than ever before. Take medical sales reps, for example. At Ethicon—a Johnson and Johnson company—sales reps not only need to understand their trade, but they must have a depth of product knowledge never before expected. In fact, they must know five times the amount of information than was required only two decades ago, including knowledge of hundreds of surgical devices—each with their own intricacies and nuances. Plus, it’s a requirement that they have the technical skills to perform their jobs in a connected world. This is pretty much the same story for employees in other professions as well.
2. Job knowledge requirements are volatile
What people need to know to do their job well can change almost daily. And how much they need to know is constantly increasing—especially on the frontlines of business. Take retail associates, for example. In the multi-channel retailing world, sales associates must know more than customers, who’ve likely done their homework before coming to the store. That means sales associates must not only learn about policies, procedures and products; they must also understand what’s offered through various sales channels, and be fully up-to-speed on ever-changing promotions.
3. Modern learners have completely different learning needs
Today’s learners only have 1% of a typical workweek (approx. 4.8 minutes a day) to devote to training and development. To add even more complexity, modern learners are not engaging with traditional methods of training. Given the rapidly evolving business word they’ve inherited, most modern learners have their hands full with deadlines, constantly shifting roles and responsibilities, and steady interruption. They’re just too overwhelmed and they don’t have time for traditional learning approaches that only seem to add to their complex world without helping them retain and apply the information they need on the job.
4. People are spending less time in the job
The real capital of any organization is its knowledge workers. But people just don’t stay in jobs for the long haul anymore: at any given time, as much as 30% or more of the workforce is actively looking for a new job. Employee tenure has been short for a number of years, fluctuating between about 3 and 5 years for younger employees, compared to over 10 years for workers age 55 and older.
Many organizations find this churn very challenging to deal with, especially when it comes to employee knowledge. Onboarding can be a significant challenge, as there is so much information about products, safety, policies and procedures that employees must learn before they’re ready for the job. And for organizations that staff up for peak periods, this challenge is that much more difficult.
In many cases, by the time employees are generating true value for the organization, they leave.
What’s the takeaway in all this gloom & doom? To thrive, L&D must find a way to develop employee knowledge to the point that it has a sustained, demonstrable impact on bottom line business results. Learning must adapt to today’s modern learner, be effective enough to get people the knowledge they need, and be flexible enough to respond to rapidly changing requirements. Sounds like a tall order? Perhaps, but help is on the way.
Stay tuned… In one week from today, we’ll have some exciting news to share that will revolutionize the way businesses tackle this escalating employee knowledge problem.
Written by Carol Leaman