Reskilling: make intrinsic knowledge extrinsic

Giving people opportunities to learn: there is room for improvement

Imagine a production department. A significant amount of the work has been computerised, but there is still plenty left for humans to do. ‘Could you hand me the big wrench please’, the foreman asks one of his workers. The worker doesn’t seem to know where to begin. To which the foreman sighs: what do kids even learn in school these days?
We seem to be conditioned to start up machines rather than human beings. Machines come with a manual, people don’t. After a recruitment, a promotion, a team or task change, people will always have to learn new things. That takes time and asks for a tailored approach. And as we know: well begun is half done.

Giving fresh talent plenty of opportunities

We so easily forget that what seems obvious to us, isn’t that obvious for someone new. We forget that routine is the result of experience and that it takes time for new colleagues to get to that same level of routine. Do you know which pedal is the brake?  You hesitated, didn’t you? Then again, if a child suddenly ran out in front of your car, you wouldn’t hesitate. Being aware that some things are done automatically, is a very important step in the right direction if we want to give our new colleagues a fair chance. If there is no such awareness, there is a real risk that we just give up and, given the tension on the labour market, we simply cannot afford that (anymore). The days of ‘someone new and better’ are over. And that doesn’t have to be an insurmountable problem, that is, if we adjust our approach appropriately. The ‘old warhorse’ and the ‘newbie’ will both have to take a step towards each other: the former by looking consciously and with a fresh pair of eyes at everything that seems obvious to them and the latter by doing their very best.

Moving to the consciously competent phase: reversing the learning cycle a quarter turn

Learning is a cycle. That cycle evolves from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence and from conscious competence to unconscious competence. In this last phase you are no longer aware of the knowledge and skills a particular job requires. Anyone who wants new colleagues to succeed will have to reverse the cycle a quarter turn, i.e. to regain awareness of the competence and skills acquired over time. After all, it is only by making (professional) knowledge explicit, that you make it transferable. Introducing someone to a job will only succeed if all the ‘obvious’ aspects are identified. That way, the learning process starts in the best possible circumstances: with clear expectations, in a safe learning environment and with a good chance to get to the essence quickly. That is the best basis for an efficient introduction into a new job, a new team, a new project.

The return on investment? The best is brought out

The fact that people have to go through a learning curve is not only unavoidable, it cannot be forced: learning takes time. When you don’t have that time, you’ll only add to the fear of making mistakes, instead of stimulating the eagerness to learn. It is true that a warm and humane welcome requires an investment. But it is equally true that the return on investment will be worth it. Because everyone has potential. Everyone has something that makes them feel warm and/or happy, something that brings out the best in them. If the best is not brought out, it’s a case of equal blame. If the best is brought out, it’s a case of double fun.

Providing a warm welcome

Who, how long, where, when, how? If you want to welcome new starters in the best possible circumstances, these questions will have to be answered within the specific reality of the company. Both those giving and receiving training want to know what the expectations are, how much learning time it will take, who will ensure the follow-up etc. The good news is: the tight labour market may well provide the perfect excuse to start onboarding people properly, i.e. with a warm - personal - welcome.


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Do you need help documenting your processes, to finally have a complete training package ready for new starters?  ITZU developed a methodology to make intrinsic knowledge extrinsic and transferable. Get in touch: 

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