Is it true that change cycles are becoming ever shorter and organizations are increasingly reaching their limits – or are we just imagining it?
The speed has definitely picked up. Practically all organizations have gone to huge lengths to be able to respond appropriately to the challenges of recent years. Now they’re discovering that one major measure ends up involving many smaller ones – and this has the knock-on effect of further increasing stress levels within the organization.
What sort of measures are you talking about?
One example is agile methods – many organizations have rolled these out in a bid to become more flexible. In practice, however, continuously reviewing and improving things also leads to countless tiny changes – and even though that’s the whole idea, this still means things never settle down properly. In addition, more and more organizations are using cloud solutions, such as Salesforce, Workday or Office 365. Although these solutions offer a lot of convenience, they also call for a high degree of adaptability – not just once, but every time there’s a new update.
How can organizations get a better handle on the issue of lots of minor changes?
First of all, they need to adapt their knowledge management and training programs to the shorter change cycles. After all, it’s not the changes themselves that are problematic – it’s the fact that organizations can’t adapt to them quickly enough. Traditional training concepts that are based on monolithic learning units are not flexible enough to adapt to the frequent changes. Learning needs to be more modular, more flexible and broken down into smaller parts.
How can organizations offer training of this kind?
Most importantly, the training budget needs to be sensibly distributed and directed to the areas where knowledge is most often gained. This means at the actual workplace, where employees acquire more than 80 percent of their knowledge. Instead of this, however, an average of 80 percent of the training budget still gets spent on traditional formats, namely in-person training or formal content. These types of training simply aren’t efficient, since employees forget 80 percent of what they have learned within just a few weeks.
So what might contemporary knowledge transfer involve?
Fundamentally, learning units need to become smaller and more modular – and involve minimal upkeep. The content needs to be presented in an appealing way, but it doesn’t always have to be customized right down to the last detail. Content templates can be very useful, for example. Online editing options are also helpful, because content can then be created or edited quickly and easily without having to overcome the barrier of a client installation. User-generated content is another important element that helps identify and fill knowledge gaps within the organization.
However, it is also important that content is relevant and meets a learner’s particular needs. How do you achieve that?
By constantly asking myself who the target group is when I’m creating content. It’s much easier to answer this question when designing small volumes of content as opposed to large learning units. If content is appropriately labeled, learners can quickly judge whether a particular learning unit is relevant to them or not. This saves them the frustration of working their way through a two-hour training video, only to discover that 90 minutes of it was irrelevant to them.
When switching to agile learning, are there formats that work particularly well or should be considered more?
In terms of formats, there are no restrictions or particular preferences. What’s much more important is that the chosen formats are used in smaller components – whether that means a step-by-step guide, a smaller-size traditional eLearning unit or a paper handout with 15 images.
What about younger employees – the TikTok generation? Do they have any particular learning habits that need to be considered?
It is certainly true that entertainment value plays a part. The formats need to work on a cell phone, even while you’re waiting at a bus stop – and they need to be fun. Learning units with too much content don’t meet young people’s information needs or take account of the reality of their situation. What’s more, young people want to play an active part in it all. Some organizations still fear that this could lead in the wrong direction. However, I believe that it is important to build up the necessary trust and permit more user-generated content – without neglecting quality assurance.
If it is so important to share knowledge of processes, rules and procedures, how can greater attention be given to these rather dry topics?
I frequently see content for these topics being presented in a really dull and dry way. Unfortunately, though, this approach doesn’t reflect the relevance of these topics at all. Take data protection, for instance, which lies at the very heart of an organization’s interests – there is so much more to this than ticking another box in the LMS. It is precisely in areas such as this that breaking down content and editing it for specific target groups has the potential to ensure that employees really get it into their heads so they can understand the change and take it into consideration in their everyday work.
What part does information efficiency play – in other words, making sure employees don’t waste time hunting for relevant content?
How the knowledge is distributed is key. As an employee, the ideal scenario is for the knowledge to find me and for me to know exactly where I need to click to access a source of information, instead of searching randomly in Teams, on SharePoint or in a Wiki in the vague hope I’ll find what I’m looking for. For this to work, the knowledge needs to be available centrally and accessible to users in the simplest, most intuitive way possible.
How can that be achieved?
Ideally by using a digital adoption solution – because, in my view, there is no medium-term alternative. It is important that the solution meets the complex requirements of the digital workplace. In other words, it not only needs to support employees in individual tasks – it also has to work across different processes and applications, because the fast pace and variety of applications associated with the digital workplace are only going to increase. That’s why I believe, too, that performance support and a digital adoption solution are going to be key in determining organizations’ competitiveness in the coming years. I am in no doubt whatsoever that there will be a difference between organizations that really embrace digital adoption and those that don’t.