Preparing Young Professionals for the Workforce

“Although they sometimes appear uninterested … young professionals may actually be frustrated by how much they don’t know.”

Excerpts from Closing the Competence Gap: Preparing Young Professionals for the Workforce, written by Nick J. Howe and published in The CET Connection, a publication of The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

The use of the word “incompetence” is not meant as an insult but merely to recognize a lack of knowledge or experience in particular areas. Incompetence is a two-fold challenge. The first is conscious incompetence, when people are aware of what they don’t know. Young professionals, in particular, can be overwhelmed by how much they don’t know or understand, which makes them unproductive. Although they sometimes appear uninterested, these young professionals may actually be frustrated by how much they don’t know, as well as the fact that they are not being effectively trained and have no idea how to reach out for help.

The second is unconscious incompetence, when people assume that they know something but, in fact, they do not. Ironically, this type of incompetence can set in just as young professionals begin to learn about the company, its products and services, and how to perform their jobs. Training that consists of cramming as much information as possible is not only ineffective in promoting knowledge retention, but it can also trigger a bigger danger: Having completed the training, young professionals (and experienced employees, as well) may incorrectly believe they truly know the information. Instead, they are unconsciously incompetent, which can lead to serious errors, dissatisfied customers and even safety issues.

When Training Does More Harm Than Good

The obvious answer to addressing incompetence is more and better training, but here’s the tricky part: Far too often, training consists of rote memorization of the company handbook or product materials, or it focuses on the basics of HR processes at the expense of more meaningful development. Online training that involves nothing more than putting static material online undermines engagement and does not assess how much learners have truly grasped.

The Adaptive Solution: Building Competence and Confidence

More young professionals are entering the workforce, equipping this group with the skills they need requires a proven approach that builds competence and confidence.

Adaptive learning uses a questions-first approach, probing what learners already know, where they have gaps in their knowledge and their confidence in what they know. When gaps are uncovered, the platform provides resources that are personalized to the learner. In addition, adaptive systems ask learners to rate how well they know a piece of content (measuring their confidence) before the correct answer is revealed. This self-assessment data can be used to further adapt and individualize the learning experience. As a result, learners become more proficient and more confident in their knowledge.

“For young professionals, adaptive learning may very well be the difference between success and failure.”

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