Experience is what separates the novices from the pros in nearly any field, from sports to engineering to medicine. True expertise, meaning exceptional or elite-level performance, reflects a body of knowledge and dedicated practice. If you have a seasoned pro, a guru, an authority, or a bona fide expert on your team you may feel like training is simply not needed. Reams of research, however, have shown that experts seek knowledge and new ways to apply their skills, so training is not only a great reward for them but an essential part of staying on top of their game.
At GSE, our EnVision On-Demand training modules are designed to “level-up” specific knowledge and practices, so we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make learning super effective. Here’s why it’s important – no, vital – to train your top experts.
True expertise takes time and training is time well spent. author Malcolm Gladwell coined the idea of “the ten-thousand-hour rule” in his 2008 book Outliers. Gladwell explained that to become an expert you need to devote at least 10,000 hours to the study and practice of a subject. He gave examples, like the Beatles, who had likely spent around 10,000 hours practicing their music during the early 1960s, and Bill Gates who had devoted 10,000 hours to programming before he created Microsoft. What we can learn from Gladwell’s research, and that of countless others, is that simply putting in 10,000 hours doing the same things over and over again is not enough to become a true expert. Instead, it’s achieved through concentrated, goal-directed, deliberate practice that stretches abilities beyond the comfort zone. And training does that.
Expertise combines knowing and doing. Human brains have evolved to learn by doing things, not just by hearing about them. This is the philosophy behind EnVision’s format which features tutorials and simulators, as well as modules for assessments. For many skills, it’s most effective to spend a third of your time absorbing material and two thirds of your time putting it to use and testing yourself. That’s because for adults, experiential learning is one of the best ways of retaining the information. There’s also a school of thought that you must, “Train like you fight.” In other words, you learn more when your practice is as similar to the real thing as possible.
Even experts can learn new methods or approaches. Training can provide experts with new perspectives, multiple ways to accomplish a task, and new options for solving a problem. High achievers often find inspiration in hearing others’ success stories and strategies.
Experts + Training can equal trainers, mentors and managers. Your best employees can pass along their skills and knowledge to others when they know how to present information and communicate effectively. Send an expert back to basic training to watch and listen to how the information is taught so they can apply those techniques to sharing their own knowledge on a topic. Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to learn is to engage in intelligent conversation with an expert on a subject, giving new importance to mentoring and shadowing relationships, for both your experts and eager learners.
Cross-training makes experts even more valuable. Experts frequently have a thirst for knowledge, so training that allows them to expand their skill sets add diversity to their roles, and satisfies their desire for professional development. Cross training can also increase the flexibility of your team or allow your expert to step in to new or expanded roles. The new ideas and approaches gained from cross training can also inspire an expert to be innovative in their area of expertise.
Training experts overcomes unconscious competence. Experts are at risk: They can become so experienced that they can expertly accomplish a task without even thinking about it. Once they reach that level of unconscious competence, it can be difficult to explain what they’ve done or how they did it to others. Instead of falling into complacency, experts need challenges to stay sharp. Researchers call this “desirable difficulty” where the harder you work trying to retrieve something from memory, the better you learn.
Professional development is a high-value benefit as well as a necessity in many oil and gas careers. Experts and high achievers are often eager to build their foundation of knowledge. Plus, training keeps them engaged and motivated, adding more value to their role on your team or developing the skills they will need to move to the next level of their career. If you’re looking for unique ways to challenge your expert-level employees, talk to your EnVision rep. Our on-demand modules blend comprehensive, standardized dynamic universal simulations with intuitive e-learning tutorials, for training and cross-training on the fundamentals of unit operations.