“…There is a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.”
So goes the famous Harry Belafonte song of the sixties. The lyrics go on to list the unending travails of the couple to plug the hole in the bucket, but to no avail. Training too is famously accused of being a perforated practice. Dismal statistics are belted out, 80% of knowledge is lost once participants walk out of the Training room. E-learning fares no better. All the wise words are ether, soon after they are delivered. Maybe, Training is more leakage then content, opine the naysayers.
But how is it possible, believers may argue. Are people not cycling, swimming, driving, and, doing a host of seemingly impossible acts of funambulism. Are people not navigating the tricky curves of Bruce Tuckman’s long and treacherous journey from Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence? Then, how can such dour observations about Training being a perforated profession be bandied about by the dubious tribe of doubting Thomases?
So, what is the truth? Nothing but the truth. Out with it! Well, truth is politically correct. It stays within sniffing distance of the Golden mean. There are holes in the bucket of learning, but, knowledge can be retained and leveraged too, provided the organisational loopholes are plugged.
No use preaching Ethics ad nauseum in an organisation where practises are all about cutting corners to get the mega deals in, or, hastening business with speed money under the table. The environment outside the training room has to be consistent with what is shared in the room. A dissonance there, does not help knowledge retention. A learning culture that nurtures the knowledge imparted in the Training Room can retain knowledge, and, plug the holes in the proverbial bucket.
Learning Culture: An essential
A learning culture is a must to retain the knowledge. But, culture is an intangible. What is required are tools and techniques to support a culture of knowledge retention and reinforcement. According to Ernst & Young, 44 percent of employees are “poor or very poor” at transferring knowledge. Companies are increasingly moving toward the implementation of robust knowledge management systems to collect and share existing information. Truly effective systems improve an organisation’s ability to take full advantage of the knowledge and experiences of its employees, and, make it easily accessible to the entire organisation at any time.
In Quotes “A learning culture is a must to retain the knowledge. But, culture is an intangible. What is required are tools and techniques to support a culture of knowledge retention and reinforcement.”
In such a system, all the information is collected and retained for reference, and, the information can be accessed as needed by any group inside the organisation, meaning that all useful information is available across several different functional departments. Such a system reduces the impact of organisational silos and promotes social networking within the organisation.
A robust knowledge management system
The retrieval of common useful information can also connect relevant people across departments, allowing for further discussion and the establishment of new networks within the organisation. In a large organisation, for example, a knowledge management system would store information available from various training programmes, and, provide the experiences and names of employees within the company familiar with working in certain regions, countries and industry verticals. The information obtained from these employees would allow others to use this information and stimulate further discussion and internal networking among employees within the company who share common experiences.
The information then bolsters the knowledge of the organisation as a whole. This author was privileged to have worked in GE, which had a very robust knowledge management system, known as Support Central. A good knowledge management system entails some of the following features:
1. It is a repository of all courses for all employees that captures and categorizes each participant’s challenges, issues, personal goals, case studies, “lessons learned,” and email addresses and other details to form an electronic community.
2. It lays down curriculum “paths” based on building specific core competencies. For example, create paths focused on developing global leadership, project management, customer service, etc.
3. It provides for the ability for each associate to create their electronic, competency roadmap and the skills component. This systematically tracks individual progress toward competency goals. Both offline and online courses undergone by individuals, teams, departments can be updated on the system.
4. It establishes an international assignment “series of interventions” in support of expatriates and repatriates.
5. It records “lessons learned” throughout each assignment, global project teams, and any form of business activity.
6. Captures details of all projects and projects within verticals, and, triggers personal coaching based on individual circumstances.
7. The KM tool analyses the information to identify and interpret trends, and identify process improvement opportunities.
8. It establishes a cross-cultural library of existing blended learning courseware.
9. It comes with a robust search optimisation feature which queries relevant searches and efficiently delivers modules derived from the case studies, lessons learned, best practises and personal/business experiences in the database.
10. It remains live, and, employees are encouraged to share their experiences and learnings. SPOCs are assigned industry vertical wise or horizontal knowledge area wise and they drive traffic in the KM tool and encourage contributions through recognition, incentives, and other ways.
Ultimately, the true value of knowledge management systems lie in their ability to limit the unnecessary repetition of tasks and improve efficiency and coordination within the entire organisation. (According to Delphi Group, employees spend 7 to 20 percent of their time on the job replicating existing solutions for others.)
The knowledge management system should develop a sense of community through the retained employee information that is made available to share, and, create awareness of the company’s core competencies as a result of its employees’ experiences. By improving the organisation’s internal awareness of itself, knowledge management systems allow organisations to find strengths they never even knew they possessed. This goes a long way in plugging the hole in the bucket of training.
KM is Liza’s answer to her husband’s dismal observation that there is a hole in the bucket, and, it is a fix for the common lament about leakage in Training!
In Quotes “The knowledge management system should develop a sense of community through the retained employee information that is made available to share, and, create awareness of the company’s core competencies as a result of its employees’ experiences.”
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