If you think back to the best training experiences you’ve had, you probably won’t say “I loved listening to that person talk for an hour!” or “What an amazing powerpoint deck!” Instead, you’ll think back to how the content was taught that made it so effective. And the exact same material, taught in two entirely different ways, will produce drastically different results. Which is why the goal with our training, and most educational coursework, is to create content that really moves its learners.
But unfortunately, even incredible classes are useless unless the material is both applicable and memorable.
After having personally worked with SMB and Enterprise customers looking to train their teams on cloud technologies, here are common pitfalls that I’ve seen get in the way of their training success:
Approaching learning as a one-time event
The journey starts where the learner is now and ends when the learner is successful. “Successful” has to be defined by your organization.
When defining a training strategy, you have to understand the end goal and what constitutes a win. You can’t just expect to pick a training platform or a consulting firm, wait a few months, and assume learning happened. Instead, you have to define what success looks like and make it part of your transformation strategy. Whether your transformation is migrating to the cloud, starting a new project, becoming more efficient, or transformation in general, align your training success objective(s) with your business objectives.
From there, you need to break down the objective(s) into a learning journey for your learners. The right training platform will work with you to figure out the path. And this is not a step that you should skip if you want to succeed. Additionally, we’re going to explore this throughout the rest of this article because there are a number of things to keep in mind.
Assuming Knowledge Gaps are the same as Skills Gaps
Your learners are currently at point A and they need to be at point Z, and everything in between represents their gap.
This gap could be a knowledge gap, a skills gap, or both. Understanding the differences up-front can completely change your approach to training. This includes determining who should receive what training and which training platform will best suit your company goals.
So let’s break down the differences between a knowledge gap and a skills gap.
Knowledge, or information, gaps are arguably the easiest gaps to fill because it means your learner(s) are missing the information they need in order to achieve success. In today’s day and age, getting access to the right information is much easier than it has ever been.
By filling knowledge gaps, you’re providing learners with the information they need in order to succeed. But even with all of the information in the world, those learners may not know how to apply it. That’s where the skills gap comes into play.
So how do you know whether your learners have a knowledge gap or a skills gap? Here are a couple of questions you can ask:
- Would your learners perform better if only they knew more information?
- Could your learners be more proficient without practice?
For example, this scenario is a knowledge gap, whereas the next scenario we will look at also includes a skills gap.
Joel recently joined company XYZ two weeks ago, and he’s in charge of completing a routine task. The person who used to do this task never had any issues completing it, but Joel is struggling. You look at the situation and realize that completing this task involves following simple steps, but those steps aren’t documented.
Joel has a knowledge gap that doesn’t require a skill to be developed, it simply requires knowledge to be transferred via a documented process.
Amy is in charge of configuring a secure connection between your on-premises resources and your AWS VPC resources. Amy has never done that before. While Amy will perform better with more information, she will also need to practice this technology to succeed. She has gaps in knowledge and skills. If you assign Amy training that requires her sitting through a powerpoint deck followed by quizzes, you’re only helping fill the knowledge gap. But maybe Amy also has to create a secure connection and practice using the technology in safe environments (aka Hands-On Labs or Sandbox environments) in addition to learning concepts, then you are fulfilling both her knowledge and skills gap.
And if your car engine had an issue and you walked up to a car mechanic for help, and they looked at you and said: “oh yeah, I recently watched a YouTube video on how to fix this, give me a few hours.” How confident would you feel in their ability to fix your engine? Frankly, that sounds like more damage than help.
On the other hand, if that car mechanic told you that he fixes the same type of issue multiple times a week, you’d feel much better about the situation. You’d know that the second mechanic has the skills developed from practice instead of just the knowledge.
So when developing your training strategy and success goals, think about the gaps you are trying to solve for. Some members of your team(s) might have a knowledge gap while others have a skill gap. This should, as a result, also change how you measure each learner(s) success within your broader training success goals, and what training you assign. At a training platform or program level, it should also guide your evaluation period. Ask the right questions and validate the answers based on these two very different gaps. Even if a training platform or program claims to solve skills gaps, ask them how exactly it does that. In the eLearning industry, many claim to train for skills gaps, but they only provide video-based training.
Ignoring Motivation Gaps
A completely different gap that we are all familiar with is the motivation gap. You could have the best learning strategy in the world, but if learners aren’t motivated, it won’t matter.
There are a number of reasons why learners might have a motivation gap:
- Teams get distracted or aren’t focused
- Learners don’t agree with the direction or don’t understand the reasoning
- There are concerns or anxiety over the changes
- They think the training will be boring
- and more
An example that is, unfortunately, all too common: an engineer has been working with XYZ technology for the better part of their career. Now ABC Corp wants to migrate to the cloud which means this engineer has to learn completely different ways of doing things. Instead, they quit and go work for another company that won’t require them to learn new skills.
One way to get around motivation gaps is by identifying the learner’s attitude toward the training and changes. And once you understand the cause of the resistance or negativity, you can craft the initiative to remove barriers.
Understand what motivates your learners — is it an intrinsic motivation or is it extrinsic? If it’s intrinsic, help the learner achieve their personal goal while aligning it with your training goals. Similarly, seeking to show them how this relates to their job or personal projects, etc. If it’s extrinsic, find rewards that will motivate them to succeed like trophies, public recognition, etc.
One very successful approach we’ve found from training thousands of teams is creating competitions. This could involve individual or team leaderboards. Or maybe the first person to accomplish a goal or task which requires applying the learning.
There are many approaches, but the most successful organizations are involved and care about motivation gaps. They don’t just set the initiative and forget about it.
Create the right training initiative for your organization
In summary, don’t cut corners if you want a successful training initiative. Many see it as an after-thought when in reality, knowledge and skills will determine how successful your transformation is.
Understanding your business objectives and how knowledge and skills gaps are preventing you from achieving them is vital. From there, create a training initiative goal and identify the right motivation for your learners. Finally, remain involved in the training program even after launch to iterate on what works well and what doesn’t.
If you’re looking for a cloud and Linux training platform that provides both knowledge and skills training and that partners with you in achieving your training goals, contact us at Linux Academy for a tailored demo or quote.