Knowledge, Confidence, and the Effectiveness of the Well-Trained Employee
Everyone is familiar with the old expression, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” The original context of the saying was very likely an admonition to help a person in distress—to toss a line to a drowning man, for instance, rather than watch him go under—but over time it has come to be used by leaders in all fields to express a preference for action over inaction.But problems arise when a person’s action may be uninformed and might have more serious consequences than doing nothing at all. Similarly, a person possessing the knowledge of what to do, but lacking the confidence to apply that knowledge in a timely way and therefore choosing not to act, might also lead to negative consequences.
Professors at UCLA conducted research that capitalized on previous studies to develop a learning methodology that connected knowledge and confidence to avoid those negative outcomes. Modern learning approaches emulate this approach in order to optimize employee effectiveness.
The Confident Application of Knowledge
The idea of knowledge/confidence synergy has steadily gained traction in training and development settings. Workers with little or incomplete knowledge, and with insufficient opportunity to practice what knowledge they have, will display job behaviors that rely heavily on guesswork. Realizing this, they may display an unwillingness to act at all. They fall into the lower left quadrant of the figure at left. Some workers may bring to the job an unwarranted confidence in their own abilities and judgements, and if unequipped with sufficient knowledge gained through good training, may make serious errors, putting a company at risk (see the upper left quadrant). With complete knowledge gained through solid training, workers may still hesitate to apply that knowledge appropriately if they haven’t been given opportunity to practice the appropriate job tasks (lower right). The highest performing workers combine both knowledge and confidence on the job. Well-designed training programs instill knowledge, and carefully programmed reinforcement and practice builds confidence. Solid training and reinforcement, combined with sufficient practice and repetition, leads to job mastery (upper right).
Efficient Employee Learning Systems
Training and development specialists have created highly effective employee learning, communications, and performance systems to foster both knowledge and confidence in workers. Online and mobile-based systems have even solved the problem of how to provide employees with adequate means of practicing job tasks through customizable, gamified “build engines,” which enable employees to make virtual mistakes and correct their task behaviors with no damaging consequences to the employer.
Other job situations can be practiced using interactive, scenario-based modules, and mobile-based, on-the-floor coaching apps facilitate and document immediate corrective actions. Some systems offer curated social learning forums that give employees the opportunity to ask questions and learn from their peers. They feature adaptive functionality that identifies employee knowledge gaps and focuses learning efforts on those gaps rather than wasting time going over previously well-established concepts. The better systems provide real-time comparative benchmarking of training test scores, so workers can match their training status to that of their coworkers.
Performance Monitoring Benefits
These systems are clearly beneficial for employee learning, communication, and performance enhancement. But the best systems offer tremendous benefits for management as well. Real-time operations KPI measurement, tracking, trending, and goal setting can be monitored by site, shift, or enterprise-wide. They can prescribe specific activities requiring the immediate attention of supervisors and site or store managers, and they can alert management to missed actions.
Comprehensive knowledge, whether it be specific job skills and tasks of the frontline employee or key performance data for supervisors or managers, delivered via a system that establishes and supports confidence in that knowledge, will put all of a company’s staff, from the newest team member to the most experienced supervisor or manager, on a path to that upper right quadrant. And mastery, after all, is ultimate goal of any learning and development program.