The Knowledge Crisis: the signs are all around us

KNOWLEDGE-crisis-axonifyIt’s a problem that’s only getting bigger. More than ever before employees 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.

Many organizations thought eLearning solutions, like the LMS, would be the answer to this growing problem. But, the fact is, the problem is only becoming more prevalent. There’s too much information for employees to process. They can’t remember what they’ve learned, let alone apply it on the job.

What’s worse is that this leaves employees 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 tradecraft, 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. 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, rapidly shifting roles and responsibilities and almost constant 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.

LMSs aren’t enough

Many organizations implemented LMSs hoping they would address this knowledge crisis.  But most are finding them falling flat. In some cases, the LMS is just aging and not able to meet evolving requirements.  But we believe the real reason is that there are inherent limitations to LMS that will never make it the sole solution to corporate knowledge requirements. Some are even suggesting that eLearning modules just don’t meet today’s need for knowledge on demand, which is largely driven by modern learners who want to find knowledge for the “point of need.”

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

We're lucky to have so many bright minds authoring content that disrupts traditional thinking, challenges the status quo and provides a fresh perspective on how to drive company performance through learning. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to get new insights delivered right to your inbox every week.

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