Do they put you in fear that they will leave the company altogether?
Preventing valuable company knowledge from walking out the door is paramount to building a knowledge-sharing organization. But keeping proprietary information from key people in your own organization can create its own problem too few experts.
An expert develops when an employee becomes very knowledgeable about one particular issue, gaining information each time the topic is discussed and finally becoming the only person in the company who completely understands every facet of the issue. No decision is made on the subject until the expert is available for consultation. Eventually, that person becomes the only one capable of making a decision based on all of the facts.
With too few experts, employees struggle to understand their objectives, unsure of how they add value to the overall process. They may seek guidance from the few experts available, but find there isnt enough time to fully understand valuable company information. Typically, the missing information is centered on key customer service processes.
Poor customer service results as employees promote unreliable deliverables from one business unit to the next. In this situation, the ultimate loser is the customer.
Getting stuck in this quagmire is avoidable, but it requires developing an information well. Here are several steps to help you get started:
- Establish a training manual for each job role.
- Encourage new hires to contribute to and revise the training manual. When a new hire is taught a task, that person is responsible for updating the manual. Depend on new hires to add tasks not currently found in the training manual.
- Base a portion of each employees performance review on the quality of his or her contributions to the departments or job-role training manual.
- Update the job role description based upon the tasks conducted and detailed in the manual. When a manager requests a new hire for his or her department, human resources can quickly update the job description by reviewing the training manual, which promotes a continuous improvement process.
- Encourage employees to publish or deposit documents in a central location easily accessed by everyone in the department for re-use in new projects.
- Place an expert in a team environment. Encourage that person to train others on certain aspects of his or her knowledge. Eliminate dependency on the expert by forcing others to gather information and make a decision, even if it may not be the best decision.
It is easier to begin this process by creating an action plan and expecting results over time. Creating a training manual for every job role in a short period of time is unrealistic.
When training manuals are a part of the everyday job duty, the process is quite manageable. And, you essentially eliminate the creation of experts.
Darla Root (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of BeanDance, an E-Learning solution provider based in Cleveland. The company has more than 200 e-online courses and customizes skill development solutions. Reach her at (440) 257-8687 or online at www.beandance.com.
The No. 1 threat to the ongoing success of American companies remains the ability to attract and retain qualified people.
As technology continues to change the landscape of how a business ultimately operates, a technologically skilled work force becomes critical. Business owners who recognize this may want to consider offering continuous learning as a means to overcome their work force needs of retention and skill development.
A 1999 Kepner-Tregoe report revealed that a lack of career development opportunities was among the top three reasons why employees left their organizations.
Admittedly, continuous learning programs can create a financial headache. But there are proven ways to integrate them without breaking the bank.
A new model
When Ford Motor Co., American Airlines and Delta Airlines announced that employees worldwide would be provided a computer, printer and Internet usage at home for $5 a month, the stage was set for a new direction of engaging employees in the work force.
The goal of the program is to build employees' technology skills by providing the tools and network necessary to gain those skills. Although most companies cannot afford to provide such an attractive package, the benefit behind such a move can be captured on a smaller scale.
For a continuous learning model to be successful, four critical components must be addressed -- change management, valuing or measuring performance, cost of delivery and an internal marketing strategy.
Every company's change initiative is unique. To get employees to embrace continuous learning, try a soft approach, encouraging participation from the bottom up. Typically, a focus group or team is established to evaluate the objectives of the company, the interests of the employees and the solutions that best meet the needs of both. A detailed implementation plan includes an explanation of why continuous learning is recognized as a new or enhanced benefit.
Once the change initiative is mapped, build in support mechanisms. Performance reviews should value skill development through training, managers should schedule time for employees to take training and alternate delivery methods such as online courses or distance learning could be offered.
Set expectations that the cost for continuous learning is shared. Whether a company is beginning a continuous learning initiative or enhancing a current benefit, sharing the cost is beneficial. This requires the company and the employee to contribute. The company contributes by identifying and making available a link to a training portal where a variety of online courses may be selected, by listing in-house classroom training or by sponsoring brown-bag lunches led by experts. The employee contributes by paying for courses or by making time to attend.
Studies indicate employees gain or retain more knowledge from training selected based upon their evaluation of need than by that forced upon them from the top down.
An internal marketing plan is the absolute critical element. According to Michael Beer in "Cracking the code of Change," Harvard Business Review, "The brutal fact is that about 70 percent of all change initiatives fail."
The plan includes information from each phase of the process:
- Reasons why the company has chosen continuous learning as a new or enhanced benefit;
- A summary of the cost broken down by lost opportunity costs of employees learning vs. working and actual training expense of instructors, technology and travel;
- Value placed upon continuous learning as defined in the new performance review;
- Benefits to the company and the employee.
No longer should training and education be viewed as a cost of doing business. Rather, companies must deem continuous learning as a key element in attracting, retaining and growing the skills of their work force.
Strategic business decisions that affect a company's future are based upon how their people resources are prepared. Darla Root (email@example.com) is president of BeanDance, a Cleveland-based e-Learning consulting firm. She can be reached at (440) 257-8687.
The world is full of great ideas.
Your ideas for an e-project may look strong on paper, but many e-solutions never get past the idea phase. Whats holding them back? Not having the most critical components in place.
1. The executive team must believe the e-solution will support and attain the companys strategic business goals.
2. There must be a framework of technology and enabled personnel to support the initiative.
3. The employees must understand the e-solution and how it can help them attain their personal business objectives so they will embrace the proposed change.
A successful e-project is about people. If you dont get the critical decision-makers to buy into an e-project, the chance of it making it past the idea phase is zero. And most projects usually involve multiple departments, such as IT, accounting, customer support and vendors or suppliers.
One of the major hurdles to moving past the idea phase is finding a sponsor who is dedicated to the e-project. Without that sponsor, its easy for a project to stall. The first step is to review how the e-project meets business goals. If it merely improves the quality of business for one department, but requires a lot of company resources, it is unlikely to gain much support.
However, when a project is shown to improve a core business goal such as customer retention or increased peripheral sales, gaining support becomes easier. To gain support, you must uncover the needs, goals and objectives of your target audiences. You can then craft your solution to their business needs.
Next, realize that you gain more buy-in for your initiative throughout the organization when you show departmental managers what the project will do specifically for them. The initial focus is on direct benefits, as they are the easiest to identify. Once you have listed the departments that are the most important from which to gain support, associate the direct expense, add to the list and identify savings and benefits. Take the time to meet with department managers and explain who the sponsor of the project is and why it is important to the company and to the department.
Direct benefits might include less time to process an order, fewer people to process an order, a higher level of customer service, a higher quality deliverable from an improved process, lower travel expenses or utilization of underleveraged resources such as vendors or suppliers. Ask managers to review and identify items you have overlooked.
When you enlist the help of department managers, you greatly improve the chances of success for your proposals, establish yourself as a full business partner and are recognized for the value you deliver to your organization.
Finally, you have navigated through months of negotiations with department managers, executive team buy-ins and team meetings. The rollout date is set; the employees most affected by the e-project were identified many months prior.
Now how will you gain their support? After all, this change affects 10 percent of their daily duties. Even when the e-project team has properly established the project, it is still possible for it to fail. Why? Simply because the value of the project is not properly conveyed to the employees who must make it happen and not just the employees handling the work today, but the employees who will be hired in the future.
How do you avoid this trap? Training.
Creating training for the e-project during the development phase:
- Greatly reduces the cost of training development as you can leverage much of the documentation created to describe the features of the solution;
- Ensures the training is ready when the solution is ready; and
- Permits time for pilot or beta testing prior to the rollout. A beta or pilot test greatly reduces obvious errors by skilled end users, enhancing a quality solution on the initial rollout
With appropriate documentation and training, an e-project is likely to enjoy long-term viability and bring the e-project team positive results.
Darla Root (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of BeanDance, an e-Learning solution provider based in Cleveland. The company has more than 200 online courses and customizes skill development solutions. Reach her at (440) 257-8687 or online at www.beandance.com.
How can they leverage the technology infrastructure? What is the best e-learning solution? How should they determine which departments will benefit the most from e-learning? And, what, exactly, is e-learning, anyway?
E-learning is defined as courses taken via the Web, anytime and from anyplace that has Internet or intranet access. The primary mystery surrounding e-learning is understanding who leads the strategy.
Deciding which software to purchase for your Web server is the responsibility of your network administrator; designing a training strategy is handled by the chief learning officer or the manager of training. E-learning is a blend of technology, training and department management problem solving.
Understanding which areas e-learning can affect is the beginning of designing your companys e-learning strategy.
Technology skill gaps
More organizations are searching for employees with Web technology skills. Insourcing, or growing your own, is an accepted method of developing technical skills in-house and is becoming a proven growth strategy.
E-learning is an inexpensive solution for building skills. Training keeps topflight technical talent from jumping ship in the face of aggressive recruiting tactics. So what do you need to start?
1. Identify critical skills needed for technical staff development.
2. Prospect from key areas of your organization while supporting current needs.
3. Retain employees through training for your technical know-how.
4. Design a career path and provide the training necessary to overcome the skill gap.
Organizations must decide how to establish a help desk that provides the best support to end-users. E-learning offers a cost-efficient solution. According to a 1996 study by Gartner Group, the average direct cost to provide support to employees is about $350 per year.
E-learning provides a high-tech Internet learning solution that reduces costs to about $40-$90 per employee each year. When an organization monitors the calls received by the help desk, a customized solution can:
- Increase the level of knowledge of the help desk employee;
- Reduce the time spent on a call;
- Improve the productivity of the end-user; and
- Decrease training costs of the help desk.
Organizations are finding that e-learning reduces the turnover rate for help desk personnel as training increases skills and reduces boredom. The help desk is a good source for filling technology skill gaps.
Why send employees to an eight-hour class when they can take courses at their workstation, when they need them and at a significantly lower cost?
If your work force is geographically diverse, employees can access the answers they need from work, home or on the road. Most e-learning solutions can be completely outsourced and externally hosted. Popular business applications, such as Office 2000, Windows, programming, network training, financial applications, soft skills and more are available and at significantly reduced costs.
According to International Data Corp., the average annual productivity loss per employee is about 10 percent of their total salary for just asking, How do I do this? questions about their (IT) desktop applications.
Employees recognize the need to maintain and grow their skill set. Organizations are finding e-learning is an inexpensive incentive opted for by employees.
By implementing e-learning, organizations can increase the flexibility and reach of their training support to every employee. In addition, most e-learning solutions provide valuable information useful for performance testing and productivity evaluation of employees. Compared to CD-ROM purchases and traditional classroom-based computer training, e-learning costs up to 90 percent less.
And that will impact your companys bottom line.