Mind the gap


7 Strategies for reducing employee knowledge gaps and improving business performance as a result



By Matt Jennison, Commercial Director, biz-group


According to the latest annual PwC CEO survey, 72 percent of Middle East CEOs prioritized creating a skilled workforce over the next three years. However, 70 percent expressed concern about the current availability of key skills and the readiness of HR departments to respond to the latest technological advancements and changing workforce demographics, and their ability to discover knowledge gaps and preparedness to adopt appropriate talent strategies to address them.


Employee knowledge, expertise, and skills are central to successful job performance, and ultimately to business success. Savvy leaders view continuous learning and improvement as essential to maintaining a healthy, competitive and successful organization. But every organization has hidden knowledge gaps—lack of knowledge about the organization and its products and services, misunderstandings related to employee roles and responsibilities, and confusion over company policies, programs and initiatives—that contribute to performance gaps, which ultimately affect the bottom line.


With organizations under constant pressure to improve operations, innovate new products and services, uncover new markets and outperform competition, knowledge gaps can be detrimental to employee, as well as company, performance. Companies need to find a way to identify and close these gaps, on an ongoing basis, in order to meet overall business KPIs.


7 Strategies for Closing the Gap


Below is a list of seven strategies for closing employee knowledge gaps that result in continuous learning on the job, ensuring employees improve their skills and effectiveness, and ultimately contributing to improved business performance.


1.       Uncover Knowledge Gaps: This is typically performed at two distinct times:


·         During the needs analysis prior to training: Pre-testing employees—through observation, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, work samples, records, and tests—is one of the most accurate ways of uncovering knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in the training. The key consideration is to make the process stress-free, easy and fun, implementing it on a regular basis and consolidating the information to create a clear profile of an employee’s knowledge gaps.  


·         During post-training evaluation: Upon their return to the office, employees embark on what is commonly known as the forgetting curve, with the information acquired dropping from 90 percent to less than 20 percent over a period of 30 days if no further intervention takes place. Implementing testing immediately after training provides a snapshot of short-term recall, helping managers identify what learning has or has not been retained, before it has an adverse impact on employee performance.


2.       Uncover Application Gaps: The real measurement of both the effectiveness of training and the existence of knowledge gaps is achieved by measuring the application of learning on the job, possibly one to six months after the training. Most training evaluations stop at measuring an employee’s satisfaction and opinion of the training, without probing further to identify what employees were actually able to apply on the job, and how the application of their learning translated into measurable outcomes for the company, whether in terms of increased productivity, efficiency or sales revenue. As long as an employee’s knowledge and skills are maintained, either through regular use, or regular reinforcement of learning, there should be a measurable effect on business KPIs.


3.       Make it Relevant: Rather than following the “one size fits all” approach, the ideal option to increase relevance and ensure that learning sticks is personalization. By conducting regular and easy to administer assessments, individual learning styles, existing knowledge gaps, personal preferences, as well as culture and language can be identified. As employees learn and progress, managers need to be aware that some of these personalization requirements will continue to change.   


4.       Make it Bite-Sized: In a region where 80 percent of training budgets are still allocated to traditional classroom-based methods, there is a need to build upon the traditional classroom course structure and duration, with the addition of frequent interventions that can be undertaken within the workplace following a training event. Cognitive theory suggests that people are only able to retain about four items in short-term memory, making extended information-packed sessions a potential landmine for knowledge gaps. By presenting knowledge in smaller, bite-sized quantities, employees are better able to retain more of what they learn.


5.       Make it Fun and Interesting: Once the knowledge gaps have been identified, it is essential, for maximum effectiveness, to transfer information in a fun and interesting way:


·         Serve it up social media style: In addition to delivering training through web-enabled devices such as mobile phones, computers or tablets, companies need to leverage the power of social media, creating learning communities, offering discussion groups and blogs, allowing learners to create personal profiles and creating challenges for learners to join.


·         Keep them guessing:  Boredom can impact learners’ ability to maintain focus during training. Some of the strategies to maintain attention include: (a) using facts or statements that are incorrect or contradictory to gain employee interest; (b) posing questions or problems to be solved to elicit employee engagement; and (c) ensuring variability through a variety of exercises and media to present materials.


·         Gamify it: Research shows that gamification of learning increases employee engagement by 50 percent or more and games and contests that are fun and involve rewards or recognition often leave employees coming back for more.  


6.       Make it Worthwhile: The key to successful training is an employee’s willingness and motivation to participate, either for intrinsic factors, such as self-interest or a desire to learn, improve or feel challenged, or extrinsic factors, such as tangible rewards on the job. Setting attainable challenges and goals, ensuring that employees understand the importance of the training, and encouraging employees to succeed can go a long way to maintaining motivation.


7.       Make it Continuous: The key to finding and closing knowledge gaps is to ensure that learning and evaluation are done on a continuous basis. Depending on the situation, the review process can be implemented daily, semi-weekly, weekly or even monthly, in bursts of as little as 30 seconds, and ideally asking five or more iterations of the same question to ensure that the learning sticks.




There is no point investing in training for the sake of training—efficient employee development needs to effectively contribute to a company’s bottom line. With the GCC transitioning into knowledge economies, the delivery of the right type of training is crucial for business success and is necessary for addressing the skills shortages in the regional workforce.


Given the transient nature of the region, where the workforce is primarily comprised of expats in search of better opportunities—and where retaining, and not only attracting, talent is a challenge—companies need to build employee loyalty by offering more than just attractive salary packages. When an organization invests in training its people, employees feel valued because the organization has chosen to invest in their development. Addressed knowledge gaps signify addressed performance gaps, and improved employee performance leads to improved business results. 



About Axonify


Axonify delivers bite-sized, personalized training in a fun, gamified way to improve critical business results through improved employee performance, building long-lasting awareness in areas that help you increase revenues and reduce expenses.

The Axonify platform is a SaaS based service offered on a per employee, per month subscription basis. Axonify learning specialists work with your team to quickly design and roll out an effective, rewarding and focused solution that achieves your business goals.

Axonify measures and reports on performance through a host of analytics, and correlates that performance to your key business objectives.For more information, visit www.biz-group.ae.



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