This article analyzes the typical proficiency curve and suggests 4 potential approaches that can accelerate proficiency in workplace skills. Accelerate proficiency-based training, accelerate on-the-job experience, accelerate proficiency with restructured training and combine multiple approaches.
The corporate goal to accelerate proficiency is as intriguing as it is mysterious. Though there is plenty of research on elite expertise and accelerated expertise, the area of accelerating proficiency is under-represented. Not many approaches or strategies are known to professionals and business leaders to accelerate proficiency in professional skills. A while ago I presented the paper “Rethinking Professional Skill Development: Accelerating Time-to-Expertise of Employees” at the Conference on Human Development in Asia, Japan. In that paper, I presented the analysis of the proficiency curve which suggested three potential approaches that could conceptually and potentially accelerate the proficiency acquisition of their employees. Simple principles of mathematics such as equations of straight lines, slope, and piece-wise representation were used to derive these three possibilities. This post attempts to describe those 4 possible routes or approaches without getting into mathematical analysis.
Proficiency Curve Analysis: Piecemeal Representation
A simplified concept of accelerated proficiency is shown in figure 1, which depicts the ‘normal proficiency curve’ in solid line and the ‘accelerated proficiency curve’ in dotted line. Along the vertical axis is hypothetical proficiency levels represented as P1 to P6. Certain ground assumptions are made in this representation. Though not everyone will be truly a novice in any job, for the sake of simplicity, in the context of a new job role, it may mean base level proficiency in new skills represented as P1. If nothing is done, an individual will start learning the skills required to do the new job at time N1 and may follow a ‘normal proficiency curve’, assuming a constant rate of proficiency acquisition. Eventually, that individual will attain desired or target proficiency P4 in time ‘N6’. This time interval ‘N6-N1’ (measuring from the start of the job) is called time to proficiency.
In a business context, the goal of an accelerated proficiency project would be to reduce the time to proficiency i.e. time taken by employees to acquire desired proficiency. In other words, it would mean to raise the slope of the ‘normal proficiency curve’ to a new slope represented by a dotted ‘accelerated proficiency curve’. The efforts are made to raise the slope of this curve so that the other individuals in the same job/role/function may attain the same level of desired proficiency, P4, in a shorter time ‘N4′ (compared to N6). Shortening this time is the goal of any accelerated proficiency project. See this post to read more about the business need of accelerating or reducing time to the proficiency of employees.
Mathematically, using equations of a straight line, slope, and piece-wise representation, it is seen that the ‘accelerated proficiency curve’ can follow 4 possible but different routes to attain desired proficiency.