“Measuring training successes by the number of people trained and number of documents stored is irrelevant to the business. Measuring gains in competence and the ability of people to contribute to business improvement is what’s needed,” says Alison Jacobson, MD of Firestring.
Every business has its own language and set of processes. Traditionally, knowledge management teams have been tasked with identifying that language so that it can be captured, archived and, hopefully, discovered and retrieved.
But knowledge managers face the same challenge faced by training departments – they’re often capturing what was, not what is “right now” and “what is about to be”.
The process of learning is formal, structured and directed. But in real day-to-day operations, knowledge workers are learning all the time, outside of classrooms and on-the-job. They learn at-the-point-of-need.
And when working and learning at-the-point-of-need, knowledge workers are performing their own learning needs analysis right in the moment – assessing the gaps between what they need to achieve and the information, relationships and behaviours they need to achieve it.
Three of the defining characteristics of the knowledge worker in today’s connected world are that:
* Rather than being part of a chain of command in which workers are told what is needed and how to do their job, they are best placed to determine what is needed.
* Knowledge exists within and beyond the organisational boundaries.
* It is constantly accessible and retrieval of it is part of the function of being a knowledge worker.
A study conducted by Firestring, an enterprise social networking company with a focus on organisational learning, across South African knowledge workers offered insights into recent learning within the workplace. Firestring asked “how you learned what you most recently learned?”.
17.4% of respondents say they were trained formally by an instructor or facilitator. 26.1% say they were trained informally by a mentor. The same number had been trained informally by a colleague. 34.8% of respondents say they learned by watching other people doing it well. And, of the knowledge workers canvassed in this survey, 52.2% taught it to themselves.
So why the focus on formal training? Is it largely because it’s easier to manage within these structures, measuring the number of attendees who were trained together with their scores, instead of developing environments that promote effective knowledge work?
Are businesses measuring training successes like they do in the schooling system rather than applying themselves to gains in competence, real business improvement and the support of knowledge workers where and when they really need it?
Jacobson believes that enterprise social networking and social learning solutions can strongly support formal training structures by accelerating change and innovation and building a knowledge-sharing culture within an organisation. Through supporting knowledge workers within an organisation, companies can increase business efficiency through increased team alignment, collaboration and knowledge management.
“The world of social media within the enterprise for employee development is not just about Twitter-like status updates across departments. It is integrated and unified, following the business direction and filling in the gaps with relevant skills and knowledge development at-the-point-of-need,” says Jacobson.
“What this means is that while an enterprise social network used for employee development deep-connects into existing knowledge stores, (document repositories and active directory structures) it also provides an environment which is constructivist.
“It allows people to make their own connections and to make contextual meaning based on their current and desired future activities rather than an end point defined by someone else within the organisation. I met someone recently who said she works in Human Performance Improvement. I asked, ‘shouldn’t we all be doing that?’” she concludes.