man on a laptop
PHOTO: jose aljovin

In years gone by, we learned a trade or completed a degree before drawing a line under the “education” part of our lives and beginning our careers. Barring the odd management course, there was no pressing demand for learning new skills or renewing qualifications.

Today, with McKinsey predicting that 75 to 375 million workers worldwide may need to switch careers by 2030, the importance of “continuous learning” is a given, endowing that phrase with the dubious honor of becoming a corporate buzzword. 

As reporter David Roe wrote in his coverage of Deloitte's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, "Companies need to create a culture of continuous learning, offering readily available classes over a range of mobile platforms to keep employees up to speed."

But whose responsibility is this ongoing knowledge enhancement? Is it up to employees to polish their skills after hours or between jobs? Should the HR department shoulder the burden of assessing the skills requirements of every staff member, then design and deliver a training program to remediate any gaps? Or is it up to IT to build a thicket of wiki pages for on-demand consumption, accessible whenever a certain piece of knowledge is required?

Predictably, the best results are achieved from a combination of the three, along with establishing a culture that supports and encourages ongoing study. It’s a tall order, but one that your humble intranet can help you deliver and maintain, to the benefit of all.

Encourage Independent Exploration

Give your whole organization a boost by empowering employees to be self-motivated and responsible for their own development. Put aside some money to fund or co-fund such initiatives, and spread the word by encouraging participants to post written course summaries or one-minute video summaries on your intranet.

Corporate communications can reinforce the development of a learning culture, leveraging the intranet to share what is on offer and recent success stories.

Siri, What Is ‘Solution Selling’?

It’s not always possible to anticipate and act on training needs, and in many cases the “two days in the training room” brand of education can have limited results. Oft-quoted studies indicate that within 24 hours, people will have forgotten the majority of the information presented (though levels of retention vary, depending on the audience, the level of motivation of individual attendees and the teaching methods used). In that context, there is a clear case for having always-accessible resources that enable employees to quickly locate and consume training at their own pace to help them complete a task or participate more effectively in a project.

Your intranet is a practical home for on-demand training. Ideally, this is the place where people go to learn things and do their jobs. A relevant training module is the natural extension of this.

In one example of user-led skills development, Tourism New Zealand, one of the winners Nielsen Norman Group’s 10 Best Intranets of 2017 awards, introduced a function called “How Do I?” that employees can use to find answers to the most common questions based on user location in the mega menu.

Beyond providing quick answers, an intranet-based training module should enable people to view and search training resources, consume them in an interactive manner and then have their completion of the training automatically added to their HR profiles. The system should also recommend follow-up training opportunities over time. There are several learning management systems that can integrate with a SharePoint intranet to achieve this.

Knowledge by Osmosis

Unconscious absorption of information through social media and work-related groups can be just as helpful as formal education. How often have you identified a new competitor on LinkedIn, or an upcoming project on Yammer? User-generated intranet content is a valuable resource for information sharing across departments and at all levels of the org chart.

While there will always be a place for structured education, your intranet can support ongoing learning by leveraging organizational knowledge and encouraging and assisting employees to learn and develop, delivering staff engagement as well as business benefits.