Youâ€™re a small to midsize company. The only real employee training you subscribe to is the occasional seminar or industry conference you send someone to, or maybe a coaching type pep talk here or there.
Other than that, everyone is too busy performing tasks related to driving your business forward to stop to learn or teach something newâ€¦no time to take one step back to take two steps forward.
Big companies have training departments where trainers can sit back to think critically about what knowledge gaps exist within the company: what role play games can we create to help the sales team become better at what they do, what courses (either classroom based or online) might benefit the customer service team.
Small companies donâ€™t have this luxury. You give a new employee the 10 minute overview of who you are and what you do. You tell him what he is supposed to do and hope that he will fit in, understand how he can contribute, and become a productive member of your team. Occasionally, you stop to give pointers on how to perform tasks better, or to impress the corporate vision that is so clear to you on those around you.
To sum it up, the knowledge transfer in small businesses is usually the result of brief one-on-one hallway conversations or quick team meetings to bring a few people up to speed. If someone wasnâ€™t a part of the conversation, it is their loss. The knowledge transfer is a one time showing.
There are two trends that will change this. The first is the advent of e-Learning. Weâ€™ve all heard of it. The second, more important trend, is the democratization of e-Learning. The tools to create online activities that can capture corporate knowledge and disseminate it, make it searchable, and readily available to your entire team are now finally becoming cheap enough and easy enough to quickly set up and use. The money issue is no longer there. The time issue is no longer there. So where to start?
The goal is not to set up a comprehensive e-Learning program that addresses every issue your employees face and to make this program available on day one. The goal is to set up an environment that, little by little, enables you to start the process of knowledge capture and transfer between and among employees. Little by little you will get there. Each iterative content or feature addition continues to push you towards the end goal. But the benefit to your team starts on day one.
Itâ€™s like building a house in a modular, scalable fashion. You donâ€™t have lots of money or time right now, but you have a vision of the nice big 5 bedroom house you want. You have a vision, a design of what you want, and right now you build something that is small, functional (livable) and built in a way that allows you to expand as time and money permit. Your family gets the immediate benefit of a roof over your head and you have the long term vision of the dream house that will make everyone happy.
How about starting with something as simple as a company message board, where employees can ask questions and those who know the answer can respond. The conversation is permanently captured so others who may have the same question can read the correspondence. That is capturing knowledge transfer so that those who were not there for the conversation can still benefit.
Collaboration tools: Chat software is on demand access to experts. Donâ€™t know the answer? See if Dan is at his computer. Chances are he knows the answer.
File sharing library: People can upload files they have created that might be useful to others. These libraries are searchable.
Online Courses: Tools are also available to create password protected online courses. Courses can start out with one lesson. Courses can be constructed modularly. Modules, chunks of information on demand, little nuggets of knowledge related to your business, can be created as time permits and can exist as stand-alone pieces of information, or can be incorporated into a larger context, such as a full course.