Knowledge work is often complex. Even jobs like entry-level customer services associates are often required to perform involved tasks in multiple systems while under pressure because they’re on the phone with anxious or angry customers. Except in young tech companies, their only support is usually the person in the adjoining cube who is also frantically trying to resolve customer concerns. Corporate training departments fall short of preparing employees for what they face on-the-job and rarely provide any post-training support.
But we all know that learning is only effective if it’s accurate and easily accessible. Stand-up face-to-face classes sometimes provide workbooks or copies of slide decks, but information buried in a two-hour, or sometimes two-month on-boarding training is impossible for most new employees to recall. And yet we continue to force employees to sit either in classes or at their desk, absorbing computer-based training and then expect them to remember all of that content.
Most content doesn’t follow the informal 3-click rule. The 3-click rule states that any content should only be three mouse clicks away. For example, when I’m working in a spreadsheet and can’t remember how to combine two cells, Google can provide that information for me in three clicks.
Because of this, we’re limiting the performance level of employees. If they’re not able to remember all the information required for their job, they’re forced to either sift through information online — which takes a lot of time — or go off instinct, which leads to expensive mistakes. Businesses measure performance in two conflicting ways — speed and accuracy. When one goes up, the other always goes down, unless employees have quick and easy access to relevant information.
There are a lot of solutions for this problem. Some companies have built in-house knowledge bases using a variety of wiki-like applications. It’s even easier when the information isn’t proprietary, meaning it doesn’t matter if non-employees have access. Where I currently work our primary training content consumers are not company employees. Instead, they purchase our applications and the accompanying training content. Our target audience is literally our customers. And so we’ve turned to YouTube. Now our customers can actually google for our learning content, and if we’ve titled and tagged things correctly, it should be within three clicks of any user.