Driving Social Learning in Your Organization

No matter how they define it, learning executives seem to agree that jumping on the social learning bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it is counterintuitive; it needs to serve a purpose. Rather than gravitating toward the bells and whistles of a new or popular product on the market, it’s incumbent to first identify a business problem that social learning can solve.

“One does not do social learning for the sake of saying, ‘I’m doing social learning,’” said Teresa Roche, vice president and chief learning officer for Agilent Technologies. “How do you do it to enable, extend, accelerate what is already a process of work that you’re doing?”

Roche said she would never try to get ahead of where Agilent’s businesses are, nor would she wholly encourage everyone to use a tool for collaboration. Instead, the question is, where are people collaborating? And then, where can we use this tool?

For example, last year Agilent bought iPads for use in its Emerging Leaders leadership program to accelerate development for 42 globally dispersed participants. The iPads were pre-populated with content, including an e-book that contained the company’s training materials and multimedia content, such as video clips, where appropriate. The company also built components into the program whereby participants could take polls and view results on an app, and participants used the Evernote app to reflect on what they learned and how it could be applied.

Similarly, SunTrust Bank identified a business need — driving productivity — that social learning could help solve. This year the bank is rethinking its technology infrastructure to determine what kind of device to provide its employees with to drive productivity. And learning leaders are providing IT with the business requirements needed to enable employees to do their jobs better.

“Whether that’s accessing a social media site or going to an internal SharePoint site or being able to post information to blog about something, we are giving them the business requirements that help them figure out the network bandwidth requirement, the software and technology infrastructure, desktop hardware that [employees] need,” said Mary Slaughter, senior vice president for talent management and development at SunTrust Bank.

Organizations across industries can benefit from enhanced collaboration and innovation among workers. For example, one of the tools Telus, a Canadian telecom company, uses to drive collaboration among its call center members is a wiki called Fixopedia. It allows employees to log issues they’re having and share solutions with peers. Previously they had to wait for a classroom session to do that, said Dan Pontefract, head of learning and collaboration at Telus.

However, a collaborative culture is necessary to drive this type of interaction.

“For example if … company X has launched a blogging platform for their employees, if their employees are scared to bits because it’s a hierarchical or closed-minded culture, who cares about a blogging platform? No one’s going to be authentically honest,” he said. “If you have a culture that’s very hoarding and controlling and stressful, you don’t have a culture of openness or full of employees that want to give back and contribute the knowledge, expertise, experience to the grid.”

Learning leaders can evaluate if a company’s culture is truly collaborative and its social strategy successful via employee engagement scores, sub-drivers such as return on performance, return on employee morale, employee likelihood to recommend the company or an employee’s likelihood to use its products.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine


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