Employee development is essential to growing your workforce’s skillsets and achieving your organizational goals. Employees in large organizations average more than 40 hours of training each year. Offering development opportunities improves retention and employees’ morale and job confidence – great for productivity.
You’re also probably already aware of the many kinds of training that can be offered, but you might be surprised by just how much shareable knowledge already exists. There are benefits and drawbacks to both kinds of development. Take a look at training versus knowledge sharing to determine the strategy that’s right for your organization.
Training boosts employees’ abilities on-the-job. While it can be difficult to pinpoint the ROI of learning and development activities, we can measure retention (50% higher in a strong learning culture) and productivity (more than 30% higher at workplaces that emphasize learning). Anecdotally, we also know that employees who receive effective training, and encouragement from their manager to apply new skills, transfer those good feelings to a commitment to their role, their team and their organization—all wins.
Training is fantastic for:
- Factual knowledge
- Introducing a new perspective or skill
- Reaching all employees enterprisewide
- Strategic or planned acquisition of knowledge, like certification courses
- Quick answers, with self-serve elearning modules and microlearning videos
Formal training, whether online, internally presented or externally provided, most often means learning from an instructor (or source) who is not only skilled at the subject but also in teaching techniques.
Cost is the greatest limitation of training, followed by the challenges of carving out time for employee training. Other challenges: making training feel personal and applicable, delivering information in engaging ways and quickly addressing the need for new skills.
Knowledge sharing harnesses the expertise contained in your departments and teams, individual employees and lessons learned from decades of on-the-job experience. It can be as casual as a mentor program or as formal as coursework.
Knowledge sharing is best for:
- Tactic knowledge, like values, attitudes and experiences
- Re-using proven solutions, to avoid having to reinvent the wheel for similar projects
- Organization-specific information or processes
- Lessons learned, from actual employee and organizational experience
- Immediate answers, by accessing a knowledge management (KM) system, asking others on a social channel or casual exchanges and collaboration between colleagues
The most obvious benefit of knowledge sharing is that it can be very cost-effective. There are no additional instructor fees or course payments. However, there may be costs associated with setting up and maintaining KM repositories. Knowledge sharing is also very specific to the organization and delivered by employees who are already known to each other.
The drawback of knowledge sharing is that it takes time – to capture and store the knowledge, and for employees to communicate information to each other. And, of course, not all employees who are experts have the skills to teach or share with others.
The Right Approach for Your Organization
Fortunately, no organization has to choose just one way to develop their workforce. In fact, having a hybrid approach and combining both training activities and knowledge-sharing principles is the prescribed approach. Tweaking the balance between them can meet different employee needs for information at different times.
To develop your learning and development strategies, consider your organization. Do you have the budget for external training? Do you have the staff expertise for successful knowledge sharing? Have you started to collect knowledge in an organized and accessible storehouse? Some argue that on-the-job knowledge sharing is a more natural way to learn. Others make the case that learning before doing is more effective.
We know that in the coming years, two forces will continue to impact the learning landscape for nearly all organizations: agility and the employee experience. With industries and environments experiencing rapid change, organizations must be agile to adjust quickly and thrive—and a key part of that is learning. Employee needs are changing too, elevating benefits like wellness programs and career development that can help manage increasing work responsibilities. Prioritizing and funding training and knowledge sharing allows organizations to focus on people as a way to navigate change and achieve goals.
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Edward Tuorinsky, Managing Principal at DTS, a government consultant business, is a service-disabled veteran who brings nearly two decades of experience to DTS in the areas of leadership, management consulting and information technology services.