The pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution and adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies to improve operational efficiency. However, not all kinds of technologies would speed up the employee development process. Leaders need to understand how much any technology would contribute towards accelerating employees’ time to proficiency.
The author’s extensive research with best-in-class organizations revealed five speed-focused strategies that learning and training leaders can use to determine the most appropriate technologies in their context. The ultimate goal of these technologies should be to speed up employee development and performance.
A hypothetical employee development journey is shown in this picture as a simplistic proficiency-time chart. It highlights five strategies that control or determine the speed of employee development in terms of time to proficiency.
First, when we hire employees at a higher level of proficiency, their overall time to reach target proficiency is significantly shortened.
Second, the definition or level of target thresholds that employees must chase impacts directly on how much longer they take to reach there.
Third, when employees are subjected to a large amount of content or skills without much support, they follow a path along the red curve, they may take longer to reach target thresholds.
Fourth, with a deliberate focus on the essential things that matter for a job, one can control the slope of employee development along the green curve.
Fifth, one must measure time along that journey to keep track of baseline and subsequent reduction.
These five speed-focused strategies, in turn, determine what kind of technologies can help in implementing those strategies.
1. Techs for hiring for the right success behaviors
The first set of technologies should give new employees a head-start in their journey. This strategy requires looking beyond the traditional focus of HR technologies to improve the processes of employee hiring, service, and demographic data.
Some technologies support monitoring and logging of seasoned employees’ activities, events, and actions. Appropriate analytics can identify the success behaviors of seasoned employees who demonstrated proficiency at a faster rate. This information creates a hiring profile of the ideal candidates in terms of required experience, skills, expertise, and behaviors required to come up to speed quickly after hiring. Such technologies contribute significantly to getting a clear head start to the new employees.
2. Techs to define and track proficiency thresholds
If proper technologies are not aligned with the defined metrics, employees could be chasing unattainable thresholds. For example, if one implements a technology to track the number of monthly cold calls made by salespeople, it may not help track the proficiency metrics if those are defined in terms of sales revenues.
Thus, the second set of technologies should support two things: First, what threshold or KPIs matter to the business in a given role? Second, how close are employees to that threshold line?
Some organizations employ CRM systems to track customer-related data like contracts, revenues, sales, engagement, and service. Some organizations use ERP systems to capture financial and operational data. The combination of these systems captures the results, outputs, successes, productivity, and other KPIs of employees each employee.
Subsequent powerful analytics (e.g., PowerBI, HANA) can slice such data across several dimensions and levels. From this, leaders can figure out what really matters to the business in terms of developing employee proficiency. Based on it, one can define proficiency metrics accurately.
3. Techs to profile the work and identify what matters the most
The length of the red curve depends upon how many things new employees are required to learn, do, or perform in their jobs. Focusing on essential things that matter the most leads to a much shorter time to proficiency.
Thus, organizations need technologies to understand work characteristics, like what is happening at the job. For instance, CRM technologies can perform analysis of the frequency of events on the employee activity logs. This information can identify the most significant events that matter the most. Correspondingly, one can map the essential skills to support or produce those activities, tasks, solutions, or outcomes that constitute the definition of proficiency metrics.
4. Techs for learning the most essential things efficiently
When people learn and apply their skills at the moment of need, their time to mastery is shortened. Performance support systems like augmented glasses or augmented reality-based gadgets can enable learning in the workflow at the point of need. Some AR headsets have the features to invite a network of coaches to guide the employees in real-time during a task remotely. VR technologies provide near-real-life experience faster in jobs like military combat, firefighting, and medical faster. Some adaptive learning management systems can adjust the sequence of learning based on prior skills to hasten the learning path.
5. Techs to measure and analyze time
Systems like LMS, CRM, ERP offer inbuilt time stamps. Specialized time tracking apps and tools can track transactional time, like time to finish a sales transaction, time to closure of a case or project. However, you need specific technologies or data analytics to go beyond time-to-transaction and measure true time to proficiency. Thus, the technologies you need should allow data analysis at every level of the company. Such analysis can determine the baseline time to proficiency, which forces business leaders to establish reasonable reduction targets. The technologies must support logging, tracking, reporting, and analyzing improvement in time to proficiency over the extended horizon.
To shorten the time to proficiency of employees, you need to be strategic. Choosing the right technology is extremely important to track and then shorten time to proficiency. You need to think at a system level to implement various technologies and infrastructure elements to capture, track, and improve these metrics over time. By doing so, you can strategically focus on progressively cutting the time out of the proficiency path.
This article first appeared in Training Magazine as Blazing the path to accelerated productivity.