Remember that time back in elementary school when you were asking yourself why you should learn something you thought you’d never use in your day-to-day life? How many times have you asked yourself this question from then until now? How many courses have you taken that actually taught you something practical? The journey from mere information to knowledge and skills is a long and challenging one.
But firstly, let’s see what’s the difference between knowledge and skills. Knowledge refers to something that is theoretical, meaning that you understand the information that you are taught. You can test your knowledge by answering multiple choice questions, for example. Skills, on the other hand, are by definition practical. They are the actions people take when applying the knowledge. At the level of corporate training programs, gaining knowledge is important, but definitely not enough. Skills are the ultimate outcome of an effective training program.
When you get engaged in a learning process at your workplace, it’s not because you have a lot of time and no idea what to do with it. It is most probably because you want to know how to perform your tasks and you need specific skills to do so. For example, when you join a cybersecurity training program, you want more than knowing the names of specific cybersecurity attacks. You probably want to know how to identify them, how to react to them, how to prevent them from happening.
And the training program is the perfect environment for you to do so, because it is a safe learning environment where the trainer can use a variety of methods in which you can practice what you have learned by means of role-playing, for example. So, how can you foster a knowledge-skills journey across your organization?
Start with setting your training goals. If you think that your overall goal is for your employees to gain a specific concept, you might want to rethink that. Ask yourself this question: what would they do with these concepts once the training program is over? How will they benefit from having taken a specific training program?
After you set up some practical objectives, you should know that turning knowledge into skills is a learning journey that takes time and requires patience. Encourage a continuous learning culture at the level of your organization, deliver knowledge and skills gradually, always make sure that employees have constant access to learning resources and give them opportunities to apply those skills.
Also, show learners what they could do once they turn knowledge into practice and make them understand how specific skills fit into their daily professional activities. Let’s say that you deliver a leadership training. During the training program, you should encourage learners to confront specific situations, to understand why a specific conflict has arisen, to use performance management tools, to implement personal development plans, etc.
Doing this during your learning program provides learners with hands-on experience, coming up with actual scenarios they encounter in their daily life. As we have mentioned before, training provides them with a safe place where they can express themselves and explore the skills they have just gained.
Another aspect that should be mentioned here is that when it comes to knowledge and skills, the planning of the training program is actually essential. More often than not, the training has to follow a specific curriculum, and the training program might focus on delivering all the pieces of information from that curriculum to make sure that everything is checked on the list. This means that if the curriculum is complex, there will be no more time for application.
And if the learners do not apply the knowledge during the training program, they might never do. So, create a knowledge-skills balance at the level of your training program, where you make sure that learners have the knowledge, but they understand how it can be turned into skills, and improve the way in which they perform their daily tasks.
Some (final) thoughts
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