How Knowledge Management Can Enhance Employee Training

Kristen Craft | April 10, 2018


Organizations are pouring more money into employee training than ever before, according to research by the Association for Talent Development (ATD). In their most recent State of the Industry Report they found that companies are spending an average of $1,273 per employee on direct learning expenditure.

Even further proof of organizations’ commitment to learning is in the average number of formal learning hours used per employee, now 34.1 hours. This is the fourth year in a row that both of these figures have grown. The rise makes a lot of sense, given that work is moving away from manufacturing towards knowledge work and service-related jobs. The number of people in knowledge work jobs has more than doubled over the past three decades, and there are no signs of that trend slowing.

Why is employee training so important?

We can break down the importance of employee training into two points: the employees themselves, and the organization.

Employee training is important to millennials

According to research by PwC, the drive to invest in learning and development has been spurred in part by the expectations of millennials in the workplace. A hefty 35% of millennials claim employers who offer substantial training programs are at the top of their application lists.

That claim is backed up by Deloitte, suggesting that if an organization fails to supply extensive professional development opportunities, they’ll struggle to retain their younger talent. This desire for learning makes sense, given that millenials are the most highly educated generation so far. They’re also used to operating in a fast-moving world that provides less job security than previous generations had. Young workers understand that they’ll face new challenges every day and that having the proper training to tackle those problems means success or failure at work.

It’s interesting to note that the same research by PwC showed that millennials are pursuing particular types of training, including:

  • Working with coaches and mentors (according to 28% of respondents)
  • Changes/rotations of role to gain experience
  • Collaborating with inspiring colleagues on key projects

The key trend seems to be that professionals prioritize hands-on experience as a means of learning, rather than just lecture or study-based education. If that’s the case, how can organizations manage, document, and leverage this form of learning?

Managing knowledge to enhance employee training

Knowledge management lets you get more mileage out of the employee training you’re already doing. It ensures that knowledge held within people’s brains can be accessed easily by the wider company. At Wistia, a video hosting company, employees can get funding for professional development but are encouraged to come back and share what they’ve learned with others.

This is of even greater importance for new employees who’ve recently joined a company. They’ll need to get up to speed quickly, and if they have access to the institutional knowledge of the organization, that ramp-up time happens faster.

Here are a few ideas to amplify employee training efforts, using knowledge management:.

1. Set up a mentorship program

Satisfy the expectations of your workforce and reap the benefits of setting up a formal mentor-mentee program within your organization. As an employer, you can facilitate the process by curating a list of people who offer or want mentorship. Go a step further by matchmaking experienced managers with trainees and graduates who are starting out on similar career paths or have similar skills. These mentors probably shouldn’t be an employee’s direct boss. Instead, it should be someone with relevant experience that the new hire could learn from in a safe environment that won’t show up on their performance review.

Benefit: Mentorship is the most commonly sought form of employee training, according to PwC’s research. You’ll not only increase your appeal to future graduates, but you’ll potentially increase retention rates amongst your top talent.

Example: Praxair, a global industrial gas company, offers mentoring as a key component of its training strategy. The program pairs each new employee with an experienced mentor who can provide hands-on support and guidance.

2. Trainees report on their experiences and findings

Another tactic that companies use to help knowledge spread through the team is encouraging all employees to actively share practical lessons with the entire organization. This can be done over email or chat, but it’s better suited in a less disruptive medium like on a wiki or through a knowledge sharing tool.

Benefit: This means that employees have the chance to learn about roles or departments they might not have been exposed to, and have access to documented information on such topics.

Example: In the scenario where a graduate is placed on a 12-36 month rotational program, the graduate might experience 3-6 months in a particular department, city, team, or office. Should they be required to document their time at each new ‘station’ they could supply the organization and future employees with valuable knowledge.

Intel offer such a rotation program across their various departmental options, giving graduates the chance to explore and decide which path best suits them. This exchange of knowledge is especially useful because research shows that teams with diverse experiences outperform groups of people who have been working together for a long time. Questions from new team members often shed light on where processes can be improved or where unnecessary rules exist that could be eliminated.

3. Use a knowledge management platform

Lastly, during any employee training program, particularly one that involves lots of hands-on learning and practical experiences, the chances are that knowledge may be lost during conversations or discussions. In that case, a knowledge management platform can help manage and disseminate organizational knowledge.

New employees might feel embarrassed to ask a question a second (or even third time), but it’s a detriment to have them suffer in silence or do something wrong for fear of asking. It’s much better to have all your team’s historical knowledge documented in an easily accessible internal knowledge base where new teammates can search for answers to the questions first, and if an answer doesn’t exist, ask teammates in an unobtrusive way. This flows also helps identify gaps in your documentation and build up a base of knowledge over time.

Benefit: A knowledge management system reduces the amount of information that is lost during employee training or in an employee’s career. Once a process is in place, with the help of a tool or platform, an organization can ramp up new teammates faster.

Example: At Tettra, we use our own product to document monthly plans, weekly goal setting, our content calendar, blog post ideas, and suggested reading material. All of these resources make life easier for a new Tettra employee on Day 1. Plus, this material helps employees grow over time by having easy access to project timelines and reading suggestions that build leadership skills.