If you’ve ever had the displeasure of pouring yourself a glass of sour milk or biting into a piece of stale bread, then you already know the importance of understanding shelf-lives.

What was once fresh and nutritious, quickly becomes unusable.

Knowledge is decaying faster than ever

The shelf-life of knowledge—the time between when knowledge is acquired to when it becomes obsolete—is shrinking rapidly. At the same time, the volume of knowledge required to do our jobs well is growing exponentially.

This means we need to be constantly learning—discarding out-of-date knowledge, and replacing it with new knowledge in an almost seamless and continuous process. Which, unsurprisingly, poses a big challenge to HR and L&D departments.

As explained by Cathy Gonzalez in her 2004 paper “The Role of Blended Learning in the World of Technology,”

The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is [now] doubling every 18 months…To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.

The challenge of this situation is compounded by the fact that people are now staying in their jobs for significantly shorter time periods. According to a Future Workplace survey, 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in their current roles for less than three years.

That’s a problem, because up to 90 percent of the knowledge in any organization is locked inside the heads of its workforce, and when employees leave, they take valuable information, resources, skills, and experiences with them.

How can organizations take on the task of maintaining a flow of up-to-date information that’s both relevant and helpful to their evolving workforce?

And, is it possible to capture and proliferate the kind of on-the-job, tacit knowledge possessed by your teams and pass it on to new team members, even as your team members and dynamics change?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. Here are some ideas that will help you get there, by supporting performance at the five moments of need.

Leverage technology

Given how quickly knowledge regenerates, organizations must turn their attention to means of training and support that make it easy to capture, update, and change information before it becomes obsolete (and before someone leaves and takes it all with them).

Don’t simply make do with limited, outdated technology solutions, just because it’s historically what the business has been using.

Instead, search for and leverage new, online learning and performance support solutions that are:

  • Fluid—to keep up with the ever-growing influx of info, seek out technology that makes it easy and fast to capture information, edit it, update it, and delete it altogether, as it grows, changes, and becomes obsolete.
  • Accessible—platforms that work on mobile devices give learners the power to access information wherever and whenever they need it, meaning they always have the most up-to-date knowledge at their fingertips.
  • Trackable—not only can you track the progress each staff member has made (what training they’ve undertaken, how much they’ve understood), but you can also track the success of your training. If it’s not quite hitting the mark, then simply edit it and re-publish.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get started, once you’ve found the right tool that suits your needs.


Once you’ve got your learning and performance support technology in place, it’s time to start filling it with useful content.

This responsibility doesn’t have to be placed all on one person, or one department’s shoulders. It can easily be spread.

Just think of all the subject matter experts you’ve got working throughout each department—people at the coal face of the business, where the work is actually happening, who have a lot of key insight to offer. Why not invite them to collaborate in the content creation? Why not make it easy for other employees to identify and contact them for help?

Not only does this help lighten the load and expand the knowledge base to those most qualified to share, but it also has the side effect of empowering your employees, and making them feel valued for their knowledge and abilities.

Setting up “training-creation task-forces” within teams, is also an excellent way to capture the tacit knowledge they’ve acquired and preserve it in the inevitable event that team members leave. Teams can validate and discuss the training and the support content, challenging and expanding upon one another’s contributions.


The sheer volume of knowledge needed for each department to run effectively can be overwhelming. To capture it, you’ll need to develop superior curation skills.

Good curation skills can be a lifesaver, or at very least a big time-saver. This is when working smarter, not harder, really comes into play.

Start by identifying hot topics that need addressing in your organization. To identify these, speak with your staff, team leaders, and managers, as they’re your direct line into their respective roles and departments, and can help you understand which topics to give priority.

Then, look out for sources of valuable content from third parties, i.e. Forbes, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, BBC News website, and so on. There is a wealth of wonderful content (be it text, infographics, or video) available for curation—you just need to know where to look.

Next, pull together the appropriate resources: mixing text, images, and video—in order to create engaging bursts of learning and readily accessible support. As you do, always maintain the mindset of the “end-user”—how and where are they likely to consume your content? In what context will they be accessing this information? Use these questions to guide your curation and appeal to their preferences.

Then, personalize and humanize what you’ve created as much as possible—adding personal messages, advice, and quick video recordings (shot on a smartphone) to explain “why,” “what,” and “how,” it relates to them.

Finally, assign one topic to a group. This is not the point to sign off. Instead, actively check their feedback and use it to quickly create other modules and improve the curation efforts you’ve already undertaken.

Ultimately, the best way to start curating is by just knuckling down and doing it. Curate today and get feedback, then curate a better topic tomorrow and encourage contribution from across your business.

Making knowledge current and accessible is a priority

By leveraging technology, encouraging collaboration, and rethinking the way information is curated, validated, and shared, organizations have the opportunity to maintain a current and expansive body of knowledge, without placing the onus squarely on the shoulders of one department.

The future moves fast—are you ready to move with it?

Editor’s note

The Performance Support Symposium offers you an opportunity to explore the strategies, practices, and technologies being used to deliver 21st-century performance support. As the speed of business continues to accelerate, the ability to deliver information to workers quickly, when and where they need it, is becoming critical. This business need, combined with the increasing number of technologies that enable support to be embedded directly into the flow of work, has fueled a renewed interest in performance support in the workplace.

Join the conversation June 10 – 12 in Austin, TX, and discover how you can enhance your training efforts by putting information in the workflow!