At Fuse we pride ourselves on being a learning platform and Knowledge Intelligence Engine. We wax lyrical so much about the importance of knowledge versus skills that you’d think we were anti-skill (if that’s even a thing.)
The truth is that we’re not down on skills - they certainly have their place and our customers are happily using Fuse daily to upskill and to reskill successfully. However, unlike our competitors, our core value proposition differentiation doesn’t lead with skills because we know that approach doesn’t lead to improved business performance. And let’s be honest: improved business performance is the eye-on-the-prize KPI in the heart of every Chief Learning Officer and CEO.
The golden ticket lies in the magic combination of skills as well as experience, and easily accessible knowledge. In this two-part series we are going to talk about how Fuse drives upskilling, and separately in part II, reskilling.
By way of background, here’s how we see both: upskilling is all about performance and being (and staying) an expert in your field. Reskilling is usually more about talent development and getting people to competence.
We’ve got lots to say about both, so let’s start with how we’re looking at knowledge, skills and upskilling at Fuse.
Why Knowledge Versus Skills?
First off, ask yourself this. How often do you need to learn a new skill at work? Twice, maybe three times a year perhaps? Now, ask yourself this: how often do you need new knowledge to do your job? If you’re anything like me, you need new knowledge and answers to your questions several times daily just to perform to your company’s advantage. Without knowledge at my fingertips to be applied in the flow of work, I’d become a bottleneck.
My skills, while valuable, are also a bit of a generic way to define me, and this is another reason we don’t lead with skills at Fuse: knowledge is specific to the individual that needs it in their role, whereas skills tend to exist and get applied in generic categories.
This skills-led approach L&D is one that many of our competitors advocate, and it’s lacking one essential characteristic: relevancy. As we explained in Why Content Aggregation is NOT the Answer to the Skills Gap, if you match large amounts of content to generic skills categories, you neglect to understand who the learner is, what their job role is, and what their situation and motivation are surrounding their inquiry.
The reason we don’t lead with skills and why we lead with knowledge is because skills aren’t enough on their own. Knowledge is specific to the individual, whereas skills tend to exist and get applied in generic categories. If your only data point is skill, then your content is unlikely to be relevant enough for specific learners. We need to go much further if we want to satisfy learner’s needs — we need to go beyond generic macro skills.
Upskilling Beyond Generic Macro Skills
Now that we’ve cleared the air to show you that we aren’t `anti-skill,` let’s talk about how Fuse is going about solving the business problem of upskilling. That’s right, upskilling is a common business problem that is focused on closing the gap between where you are, and where you need to be to improve business performance today.
We like to think about upskilling in Fuse in terms of bottling greatness and tacit knowledge and digitising it so that it can be shared on Fuse at scale. Scale is important in our learning design: if you can train 100 people on a new skill with one video, you’re laughing.
The thing about upskilling is that you always need to do it - it’s an ongoing process. You’ll have no doubt seen many research survey results that speak to the importance of upskilling, particularly digital upskilling.
However, one research study in particular has shown us what we suspected: employees aren’t getting enough opportunities to upskill successfully. SD Worx surveyed 4,500 respondents in Belgium, UK, France, Netherlands and Germany, with 500 based in the UK. Over a third of UK workers (34.6 per cent) stated that they are not receiving the correct opportunities to upskill in the workplace. Just under half (49 per cent) expressed that they didn’t have the chance to decide which training courses they would like to attend.
Now, how can you upskill continuously when you don’t have the opportunity, and you don’t even get a vote on what course you want to take? I daresay that part of the problem lies in a 100 per cent course-based approach in the first place, which is never going to close the gap between good and great performance. How many courses can a person take?
A better approach is upskilling with knowledge to create value as quickly as possible, and Fuse does this by serving up knowledge (answers to questions) at the point of need. It’s an approach that acts as a catalyst to continuous learning.
Our customer Avon is a great example of the commercial benefit of continuous learning. The company didn’t start out by saying “I want to upskill all my beauty entrepreneurs with the latest e-commerce selling techniques.” It said: “I want to increase the frequency with which people use my L&D platform, and to share meaningful knowledge that will help the many inquiries beauty entrepreneurs could have in the sales lifecycle.”
By making knowledge relevant and interesting, and by encouraging user-generated content, Avon saw an incremental increase in monthly visits to the platform - the difference between low frequency (1 to 2 visits per month) and medium frequency (3 to 4 visits per month.) What followed was a dramatic uplift of +320% in aggregate sales over a 6 month period.
It’s a classic case of successful upskilling. The beauty entrepreneurs got into the habit of coming back to the platform to refresh their understanding, and to search for answers to their very specific issues. They clearly enjoyed coming back to the platform to see what new knowledge they could consume, and to be part of the community conversation. In doing so, they did acquire new skills along the way. Who said learning couldn’t be fun?
Hilti’s a great example of how quickly people can upskill when they have the right tools. What used to be a 15 months sales onboarding process payback period became a three-month payback process with Fuse. People were clearly very quickly learning the skills they needed to accelerate company performance.
This example also illustrates how important it is to focus on job roles, and not just skills. When we lead with job-specific knowledge, we create more context, which makes it easier to get tacit knowledge in the right context.