Fill Those Workplace Experience Gaps

By Stephenie Overman Mar 19, 2013
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What Ray E. Jimenez, Ph.D., calls “wisdom-based” learning can be an antidote to “the lack and loss of experience” in the workplace, resulting in part from the exiting of the aging workforce, he said.

Jimenez, chief learning architect for the e-learning and technology services company VignettesLearning, described how companies can develop ways to capture employees’ experiences, cross-relate those experiences and share their wisdom with others to sustain corporate knowledge banks in a March 8, 2013, webcast.

Strain of ‘Brain Drain’

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported that of every 10 employees in today’s workforce, four workers can be considered “experienced”; six are new entrants or inexperienced workers.

“We are losing our [collective] wisdom tooth,” Jimenez said, “so we are losing our [workplace] intelligence.”

But that doesn’t have to happen, he said. Jimenez, author of the study report Micro-Learning Impacts, which was conducted with Training Magazine Events, described how to hold on to that intelligence by designing e-learning content that encourages employees to contribute their experiences and by building a tool or software to effectively share those experiences.

Learning from Collective Experiences

Jimenez cited the book The Future of Decision Making (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), in which authors Roger C. Schank, Dimitris Lyras and Elliot Soloway promote “case-based reasoning” that solves problems based on the solutions attained for other comparable past problems. The book features examples of companies that have identified experts and gathered their stories.

In a case study conducted for a client, Jimenez did just that, using proprietary software to track questions and answers posted by employees.

“Every time a person posted an answer,” he or she was asked to classify it as a result, solution, test or idea, he said. “We asked, ‘How did you do it?’ rather than ‘What do you think?’ ” to maintain the experiential focus of the study.

Allowing employees to search this new system helps them to become better self-directed learners and to build on other peoples’ experiences, he said.

Most discussion is linear, Jimenez said. But as an experiment, he posed the question: “What happens when you allow participants to relate the answers with answers outside of the questions asked?”

“It becomes a mapping device. It helps people learn that there may be related questions,” he said. “For example, if the product is XYZ and the question is how to cut production time, there might be conversations with vendors and suppliers” as well as internally generated information. “It helps the learner add on new ideas. Learners gain a new perspective.”

With this type of “wisdom-based” learning, “anyone in the entire system can click on my expertise. This becomes a forum,” he explained. “The quality of the answers helps them think [things] through. You not only get a lot of sharing, but you get a list of what people are good at.”

In addition to the knowledge gained, Jimenez asked, “What would happen to motivation if we published all of that information for [employees’] bosses to see and to be accessed outside the company? How will that impact the learner?”

“It becomes a mechanism for them to recognize that they are contributing,” Jimenez said. “It showcases their expertise. They receive credit, recognition. It lets people shine, [and] retention increases.”

In the end, “you have a wisdom-based process,” he said. “You have ideas that are linked to actual experiences rather than being lecture-based.”

Jimenez is the author of 3-Minute e-Learning (Monogatri Press, 2006), Scenario-Based Learning (Monogatri Press, 2009) and Do-It-Yourself eLearning (an e-book).He also is the founder of Training Magazine Network.

Stephenie Overman is a freelance writer based in Reston, Va.

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