Perspective from AOL on social recruiting. Connecting with potential employees has never been more important before. The war for talent will be be won through different frontiers. Social is one of those.
A webinar on Social Learning, which I led it with two colleagues. The world of social software, social media, and how L&D uses the software, the media and leverages the theory of social learning has changed significantly. All in the direction we had envisioned two years ago.
Even as the Learning/ Education world looks at asking the “LMS” and “LCMS” to “give” more, anyone looking at simple straightforward collaboration can absolutely leverage the integrated Google suite. For those organizations that have started using Google Apps, or integrated the apps with systems within the org, being able to share files directly from the Google Drive to the Google+ social network, eliminating the need to email files, or set-up Dropbox accounts, or using You Send It etc.
This post was originally in response to a discussion on LinkedIn to a targeted audience. I believe my readers here will find it useful. Here is a list of a few hurdles and suggestions to overcome them.
Executive Buy-In– In my opinion, this is the most important hurdle to be crossed. However, my experience proves that asking and involving executives to sponsor the initiative will lead to great success was proven at my former employers. The CEO Dame Marjorie Scardino sent an organization wide message communicating the importance of the initiative. She emphasized the strategic direction the organization needs to head toward, and the role of the social initiative in making that happen. Organizations that have not succeeded in implementing social collaboration software for their knowledge management activities need to lack of adoption may want to explore this aspect. If there is no C-Suite buy-in and push, it is likely that any social initiative will find only low to moderate success.
Content is one King, and the other is Design– Both play an equally important role: Design of the platform/tool and design of interactions. So one needs to think about UX, UI, and content. This hurdle can be crossed by implementing some of the best practices that have made networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and everyone’s any other favorite tool user-friendly, and worthy of attention due to content. Content is heavily dependent on participation. Participation by C-suite, senior leadership, and line managers can drive adoption of the initiative and the social collaboration platform. The platform then becomes a great knowledge management platform. For greater adoption spend time on encouraging, and onboarding people on the platform. Some suggestions to drive quality content- a) Invite ‘experts’ to share content in a non-threatening manner, b) invite experiences or achievements of groups, teams, individuals as a means to increase content on the platform. This strategy should drive more engagement, and further contribution.
Community Manager– This person plays an important role in enabling engagement, and training users on the platform. Repeated webinars/ conversations demonstrating the tool, the available content, the variety of interaction types, and interactions lead to engagement. An expert communicator with demonstrated interest and knowledge of managing communities will be a great asset to the success of the initiative.
Incentives– “Give me one reason why I should be doing more than I already do, and why, and why would I do this?” These are common questions asked by already overloaded individuals. Include game mechanics to give people an incentive to continue participation until content and interaction speak for themselves. Critics might say I am suggesting gamification of learning. On the contrary. I am encouraging learning designers, and community managers to think about using gamification to their advantage.
All of the above recommendations are assuming there is one unified platform that one would like to use. But if it is related to embedding Social-Learning opportunities within other modalities such as classroom-based learning, or within elearning it is crucial for a good learning design expert to lead the design of the interactions.
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I undertook an exploratory study on Informal Learning in organizations. For the purpose of this study, I defined Informal Learning as learning, which occurs outside of structured environments, is most often incidental, and at times not. When learning happens from material obtained from a company blog, or any other resource on the net or the library to name a few, and at the learner’s initiative, it becomes conscious self-directed learning, but stil informal. Here the onus of learning is more on the individual, rather than on the organization and neither on the superior who recommends training in a performance appraisal or otherwise. This is conscious informal learning. Unconscious or incidental informal learning is that which occurs during conversations which spring up spontaneously in cafeterias, on break-out sessions, or over those walk-in chats with mentors.
My sample consisted of 15 executives, managers and consultants from the training and development organization of companies and from other functions such as Supply Chain Management, IT infrastructure and others. I studied their impressions of informal learning, barriers to informal learning, and facilitating factors.
Not surprising that Organization Culture was considered the most significant factor that fostered or hindered informal learning. Support from senior management and supervisor was ranked second. Third most important factor was means to harness informal learning in organizations, which speaks to creation of Communities of Practice (Wenger,1987) as also use of Knowledge Management Software and Web 2.0 tools within the organization, among other things.
Some would comment that the moment we harness informal learning floating around the organization, we make it formal. I would say we just make that informal learning more available to others, just that it is no longer incidental. This still allows learner the opportunity to be self-directed.
To conclude, focus on informal learning is the call of the time, if the organization is to make learning a more meaningful activity- with far higher returns. While formal training cannot be eliminated, as was done by a corporation ( Cross, 2005) it is necessary that the learning and development divisions of organizations start appreciating the power of informal learning and find means of integrating it into formal learning initiatives. Simultaneous acknowledgement of informal learning at the highest levels in organizations will initiate and sustain a redesigned organization culture and design.
If there is an environment which breeds trust, team spirit and is not a totally individualized competitive environment as one of the respondents on my survey mentioned, then there is a possibility that informal learning initiatives can be a success in organizations. While informal learning is mostly incidental, creating opportunities for such incidents to happen more often than not would be the role of the senior management and the learning and development organizations, as has been done by Google, by creating fun environments at work so that teams and individuals get to come closer, and share an enriching working relationship (Cross, 2005).
As this is a relatively young , unexplored and underutilized mode of learning, organizations such as Training and Development and IT within the company need to be cognizant of their responsibilities in fostering this environment and sensitize people to exploit this opportunity e.g. through education of technology used to harness informal learning, so that employees can dip into that pool, as and when required. Over and above everything, while recognizing that organizations can do a lot to promote informal learning, it is also important for individual employees to take initiative for their growth and development, as mentioned earlier.
Finally, appreciation for informal learning is increasing, and organizations that go leaner and more networked will find it increasingly easy to harness that learning, assuming it is ready and willing to do so.
There are a couple concerns that need thought. ROI and Standardization of informal learning are not addressed in most of the literature that is around, but is definitely a concern for organizations, as mentioned to me by a Senior Learning Personnel from a professional services firm. My intuition is that leveraging technology and ensuring a conducive organization environment can address these questions. While i do not have any empirical data to support my claim, it would not be far-fetched to say that encouraging employees to form communities of practice, using blogs and wikis to read, reflect and respond and coaching those who require some help through apprenticeship will ensure some amount of standardization in content and context.
The Skills Minister of UK emphasizes effectiveness of informal learning and encourages organizations to facilitate more of it..