When You Don’t Know What They Don’t Know.

The success of your business relies on a workforce that’s competent, highly skilled and knowledgeable; who can apply these attributes effectively to the job they do for you.

Blindly trusting they have these attributes is more than a little bit risky…

What if you don’t know what they don’t know?

For instance, consider your internal safety program. It might appear that employees understand proper safety measures and what to do in the event of an accident or other safety hazard. But how do you know? Is a “smile sheet” survey at the conclusion of training—2 months ago—enough to make you confident employees retained what they learned and can make the right decision?

Do you want missed sales targets to be the red flag identifying there’s a problem with your sales force?  Although you spend thousands bringing your sales team together for new product training, there may be many people who don’t really learn the information well enough to sell your products effectively.

What would happen if your customer service representatives weren’t at the top of their game? Even one “time out” to check with a supervisor is enough to increase resolution time… and aggravate a customer looking for assistance!

Would it make a difference to your business if you knew without a doubt that your employees had the knowledge and skills to perform at peak levels? How much more opportunity would you consider if you had a high comfort level in their competence? How much more risk averse would you be if you knew they weren’t at the peak level you need? What would it change if you could predict the speed at which employees could achieve competence or excellence in selling a new product? The key is to dig deep and mine the information about your employees’ knowledge and learning; then put that intelligence to work.

To leverage employee learning data effectively, you need a variety of metrics:

  • A granular baseline knowledge level for each employee, on each critical topic.
  • A consolidated baseline knowledge level per topic, across department, geographic or demographic boundaries.
  • Progressive knowledge improvement rates on every topic, for every employee, as well as consolidated by department, geographic or demographic boundaries.
  • Knowledge about which employees participate in learning, and which avoid it like the plague.

With this type of learning data, there is a variety of intelligence you can obtain:

  • Understand baseline knowledge levels of specific topics and analyze whether the knowledge meets your target levels.
  • Understand in which topics your employees need more training: where they are, and where they need to be.
  • Identify low levels of participation: understand which employees need to participate more in their learning programs, and evaluate whether low participation equates to lower knowledge levels.
  • Understand training effectiveness: identify knowledge lifts by product, policy or procedure – by individual or department.
  • Relate training to job performance improvements: with historic learning data, you can identify and correlate knowledge lifts to job performance improvements over specific periods of time.

When you know what your employees don’t know, you have the ability to fix it. Mining learning data, then turning it into actionable intelligence is a sure way to ensure your workforce is competent, highly skilled and knowledgeable. That’s a workforce that can support and grow your business.

Written by Carol Leaman

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

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