In today’s rapidly changing times, organizations have realized that not only do they have to stay updated but should also initiate ways in which their employees can be upskilled. Through organizational learning modules, companies are introducing learning programmes, workshops, higher education stipends and more to help employers be on top of their game. But is this truly helping? Not entirely!
What organizations perceive as “growth” may not really be bridging the learning gap. For instance, when technology makes one programming language redundant and another in vogue, employees get trained in the latter. However, mere learning may not do the trick. The employee may have to teach her team how to implement the technology effectively and apply it to their projects. And this requires additional skills of communications, team building, leadership, etc., which this upskilling exercise does not take into consideration.
There is a big gap between what people want/need to learn and what employers want people to learn. This is termed the ‘learning gap.’ The official definition describes a learning gap as the difference between what a learner needs to be able to do (desired state) and where the learner is now (the current state).
More often than not organizations and employees are not even aware of these gaps and hence don’t bridge them. One needs to identify and acknowledge these to find the right solutions. And then there needs to be a systematic plan to implement those solutions.
“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves…It is no longer resources that limit decisions; it is the decision that makes the resources.” — Alvin Toffler, Future Shock
First, let’s see what kinds of learning gaps could be present.
When there is a gap in the information available for a person to complete a task or perform their duties to the best possible extent, these are called knowledge gaps. This could be the case when there is a new software or system is introduced. A person needs to get equipped with the necessary information about the system/software in order to understand it.
Today, while one might be operating in the tourism sector, you cannot be the best in business unless you understand sustainable tourism. This is not just a requirement for business, but also the need of the hour. So, companies working in the travel and tourism spectrum need guidance from sustainable travel experts to update themselves on sustainable travel planning, the impact of tourism around the world and more and fill their knowledge gaps.
More often than not this is the most easily detectable learning gap. However, this gap needs to be filled along with other related learning gaps listed below in order to be truly effective.
Organizations could employ a mix of books/training material, workshops, conferences, online courses, in-person classes/training sessions, educational stipends, etc., to fill this gap.
Once the software has been introduced and information is provided, an employee needs to be trained to get skilled at it. This is a skill gap. And with training and practice, skill gaps can be overcome and replaced with expertise.
You might have a great profile on Instagram and update regularly, but without understanding the algorithm or tracking the right metrics, the chances of success are slim. What you need here is a skill to increase your followers and ROI by using Instagram effectively for your business. In a world of artificial intelligence, the need of the hour is building soft skills like leadership, design thinking, team-building, etc. These will be the true differentiators between humans and AI, while future-proofing our careers.
But skill gaps are not simple to bridge. They require more intervention from the organization. Firstly, the different skill sets of the employees need to be evaluated. Based on the evaluation, various levels of training need to be provided. This calls for a systematic and customized solution. To understand this better, we could take the example of a gym. Members are at different fitness levels. So, trainers offer specific coaching and fitness plans for each, based on the requirement. Similarly, organizations usually employ trainers to offer specific training solutions to each employee.
This is more of an intangible gap that requires careful evaluation. To perform to one’s best extent, an employee needs to be able to bring their best selves to work. However, professional and personal circumstances can impact this considerably. A health issue could result in reduced effective work hours. Financial issues might put pressure on performance, etc. These fall under the broad umbrella called motivation gap.
Employers need to create the best working environment and support the employees with the necessary motivation and inspiration to perform their duties. This could mean anything from free or subsidized mental health services to financial planning training and gym or yoga memberships. For example, an employee could have difficulty focusing at work due to some personal troubles. This is neither knowledge nor a skill gap. It is more to do with a lack of motivation caused by anxiety. This employee needs a mindfulness coach who can help them compartmentalize work and life and take it one day at a time.
Today, we see more and more startups and corporate offices establish fitness rooms, nap rooms, catered food and other perks within their premises to help and support their employees in the best way possible.
Closely related to the above problem is the problem of not having an environment conducive to learning. Despite the will to learn, without the right setting for learning, it becomes difficult for employees to apply themselves to the upskilling process.
Organizations need to address questions like when and where can the employees’ study? How would this impact their personal lives? Can any service–childcare, commute, time off of work, etc.– be provided to find a better solution?
Many coworking spaces today offer childcare services to help members work without worrying about their kids. Many office buildings are opening their doors to pets to help work and life flow seamlessly. And at NewCampus, we offer businesses a way to introduce lifelong learning to their employees in a flexible manner.
This is, probably, the toughest gap to bridge. As the old adage goes, there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip. What if the instructor or trainer is not good at communicating concepts? Or what if there is a learning issue/disability in play? What if there is a miscommunication in terms of directions between the learner and the instructor? What if the subject matter is outdated? There could still be many gaps in learning that could go undetected or could be hampering the speed of progress.
This is where feedback becomes invaluable. A curriculum cannot be one size fits all. It needs to evolve with time, the learners in question and with the trends. And in order to introduce multiple viewpoints, instructors should be without bias, from different backgrounds and sharing subject content with clarity. The learning material itself should be inclusive and offer diverse options. For instance, can it take into consideration learning disabilities? Can the material be created in multimedia so people can choose the medium that they prefer personally? Is the study matter available in local languages? Is the language used in the material mindful of age, race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.? All these can help bridge communication gap to a great extent.
Organizations should ensure that learning cannot be fitted into a box or a linear path. It should be treated as a work-in-progress aided by evaluations, feedback and evolution, much like our lives and the world around us.
How do you address learning at your organization? Which of these gaps have you managed to fill and how? We’d love to know more! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org