Top Three Approaches to Grow and Leverage Technical Expertise
In my last post on making the most of technical expertise, I talked about three knowledge gaps technical leaders are contending with: turning mid-career employees (aka “nex’perts”) into experts, speeding up the learning curve for novices and new hires, and creating new innovations and solutions. Earlier this year, APQC surveyed more than 750 people to find out what they’re doing to close these gaps and which tools and approaches are most effective.
As the chart above shows, mentoring and training received the highest effectiveness ratings—a testament to the value of in-depth learning. Unfortunately, mentoring requires a big time investment from experts, and training can be equally high-touch when experts design and deliver lessons. Most organizations simply don’t have enough expert trainers and mentors to bring nex’perts up to speed, and they don’t have years to wait for training and mentoring programs achieve their full effect.
APQC’s research points to a need for a combination of approaches to combat the scarcity of experts and help less experienced employees take on more responsibility in the short term. The mix should include:
1. Structural approaches—gathering experts into a center of excellence or allocating them to specific regions or project areas
2. Knowledge management approaches—using technical networks and forums, communities of practice, profile-based expertise locators, technical conferences, and formal processes to codify and transfer expertise
3. Content management approaches—improving access to content and learning through contextual search, special libraries, and clear ownership of content
These tactics can supplement training and mentoring by providing access to information and expertise at the moment of need, speeding up self-service learning, and enhancing collaboration.
The data suggests that tools like communities of practice and networks are already providing significant value. Others—most notably expertise location, content repositories, and knowledge transfer approaches—may represent opportunities for improvement. APQC has seen these approaches provide immense value when properly designed and implemented, so we know the potential is there for organizations to derive additional benefit.