A version of this post was originally published on January 22, 2019, in Training Journal.
The knowledge-based economy is here to stay. Companies operating in a variety of industries are aware that having knowledgeable employees is crucial to their success. Having access to information is not enough; knowing where exactly to find it and what to do with it is what really matters.
But knowledge is not something you can take with you in your pocket. Nor can you pour it into someone else’s brain. Training and Development departments are really up for a challenge when it comes to creating and delivering learning programs that ensure the highest possible rate of knowledge transfer.
Considering knowledge can be transferred directly between employees through meetings and informal chats — not just from training courses within the company LMS to each trainee — they really have their hands full.
No matter how it happens, it’s important to keep in mind that there are plenty of roadblocks along the way of successful knowledge transfer. Understanding them is the first step in overcoming them.
4 Roadblocks to knowledge transfer and their solutions
So let’s take a look at the most common things that can hinder knowledge transfer during a training program and explore the solutions available to instructional designers and L&D managers. Some can be controlled more than others, but all four of these obstacles should be taken into consideration when designing online training courses and calculating their outcomes in terms of knowledge transfer.
Time zones and geographical barriers
In this day and age, even the smallest of companies can opt to employ an international workforce; this is no longer a trait of large corporations anymore. But with employees working all over the globe, coordinating training and development programs has become a little bit more complicated. Time zone differences are easy to overlook at first, but this is a mistake usually made just once.
The best solution to overcome this issue is to implement an LMS — or any other training solution for that matter — that allows asynchronous learning. Each employee will then be able to access the knowledge they need at the time most convenient for them. They’ll go through courses and ask questions, and they’ll get the support they need when the time is more convenient for the instructor.
Read more: 4 Steps for implementing a new LMS
Physical wellbeing and emotions of employees
This is one of the most unpredictable factors that can have a negative impact on successful knowledge transfer. The personal life of employees can never be fully separated from their professional ones. Sleep deprivation, headaches, the common cold or stress over various situations at home can cause them to not being able to pay attention when important knowledge is shared at work.
While training professionals can’t possibly manage the levels of stress or how an employee feels at any given moment, they can create and maintain a safe learning environment. For example, they can design online simulations that allow trainees to make mistakes after learning something without suffering the real-life consequences. The careful use of colors in online courses can also make them feel calmer, while a little humor within the training content can contribute to a more relaxed setting.
With the proliferation of the open office, the workplace holds more distractions than ever. To some extent, work doesn’t happen at work anymore. All sorts of noises and irrelevant conversations come in the detriment of focus and productivity. And people need their focus in knowledge acquiring activities.
That’s why training courses should always have a clear structure, with clear objectives, organized resources and summaries for each learning module. Also, there should be some interactive elements sprinkled within the course, as well as gamification elements, to keep learners engaged. Last but not least, instructional designers should consider embracing micro-learning and allow courses to be self-paced; this way, employees will have more control over their learning process, thus better remembering what they learned and applying it in real life.
A lack of post-training activities
The forgetting curve is real. If people don’t practice what they have just learned they’ll eventually the most part of it. Even if they are feeling perfect and get over all workplace distractions, trainees will have a hard time recalling everything they learned over time.
Spaced repetition during online training courses helps, but post-training activities that are based on previously acquired knowledge are even better. Another best practice training professionals should follow is that of making all learning materials available on demand to all employees and also make sure the search function in this central repository of knowledge works.
Knowledge transfer is never an effortless process that happens spontaneously within an organization. There are many factors that work against it, from time zone differences and how people feel, to workplace distractions and a lack of post-training activities that reinforce the acquired knowledge — and more. But L&D professionals can create training materials that can support learners in overcoming all of these roadblocks.