5 Tips to Teach Employees Skills They Don’t Know They Lack

Each year, companies spend billions of dollars on corporate learning and assume they have done everything they need to ensure their employees have the skills and knowledge to be successful.  Most of the time, the employees also feel like they are well prepared.  However, research has shown that many of these employees are actually “unconsciously incompetent” in 20-40 % of areas critical to their performance.  This means that thousands of employees don’t actually have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their jobs even though they think they do.  While this clearly poses some significant complications, the question remains: How is a manager supposed to correct a problem they don’t know exists? Here are a few tips for teaching employees the necessary skills they need and avoiding “unconscious incompetence.”

Redesign Corporate Training Programs

Corporate training programs need to be redesigned to better engage learners and help them identify what they don’t know.  Many traditional training modules rely on content that does not engage learners but leaves them clicking through the material as quickly as possible.  In addition, these programs only cover certain information, assuming that participants are coming with a bit of prior knowledge.  This “one size fits all approach” is ineffective because every learner differs in background, experience, and knowledge.  Instead, training needs to be more personalized according to the specific learning needs of participants.

Create Better Learning Models

Rather than giving a standard training program to every person, they should be adaptive to the specific needs of each person.  This means they should find out what the person already knows and what content they have not yet mastered in order to offer additional support in those weaker areas. This same type of thinking involves making continuing education mandatory so employees are keeping up with a constantly evolving industry.

Check for Confidence When Testing

Many businesses administer some type of test in order to “pass” employees and certify them.  However, there is no guarantee that just because the participants receive a passing score that they have truly mastered the material.  You can find out how much they really know by having them rate their confidence level for each answer.  Not only does this make the learner much more aware of what they actually know, but it helps to identify which questions they really knew and which ones were lucky guesses.

Promote Continuous Improvement

A great strategy for training employees is implementing continuous improvement programs.  Companies should keep some record of errors so they can revisit those areas and openly discuss strategies for improvement.  Rather than punishing employees for their mistakes, companies can use these errors as a teaching tool for others. This will make employees more comfortable acknowledging their mistakes and admitting doubt when they don’t understand something so they can get the support they need to make proper improvements.

Role Play

A great way to see how much your employees truly know is to participate in role-play scenarios.  This should be done routinely, not just during the training process, to make sure employees have the knowledge and skills needed to handle a variety of situations.  Managers should come up with multiple scenarios that force employees to demonstrate knowledge of the product, their ability to negotiate, their ability to deal with difficult customers, and their overall knowledge of the company.  This is a great learning opportunity and will help employees identify areas of weakness.