Category Archives: Strategy

Love Learning – January Report Card

Now we’ve completed our first full month of the campaign I can reflect a little on how Love Learning is going, what we need to do next and how it’s been received.

Let’s start with some stats for the month:

1350 – hits on the four new articles we wrote and published on the Intranet

900 – approximate number of UK employees

390 – hits on our Scoop.it topics

230 – hits on our Scoop.it topics coming from our employees (based on Scoop.it analytics)

40 – new items of curated content added to our Scoop.it topics

33 – attendees on our first lunch and learn webinar

6 – employees who now follow our topics on Scoop.it (this means they’ve created their own user accounts)

3 – employees who have joined our Love Learning Chatter group

What’s gone well?

We’re really happy with the number of hits on the intranet articles. The main introductory article got 650, so over two thirds of the company at least looked at it. Before the campaign the HR section of the intranet would often go months without any new content and it was apparently impossible to change the cheesy handshake feature image, which took up a quarter of the screen. Nothing is impossible, even in corporate comms.

Now we post at least one new article a week with it’s own feature image, each article is carefully curated, rich with links to other relevant content and permanent links to our Scoop.it pages, Chatter group and direct contact with the team.

We ran a very informal webinar session last Friday, publicised it via email and the intranet and got a really good response. Over 30 people attended to find out how they can use tools like Scoop.it, Zite, Flipboard and Google to make learning a part of their daily routine. The session was only scheduled for 30 minutes (it was Friday lunchtime), but half a dozen people stayed on for up to an hour to get support to set up their own Scoop.it accounts and ask questions. Several people came to the webinar because our new approach made them “confused and uncomfortable”. By the end of the session they understood what it is we are trying to achieve and they know they can get help and support whenever they need it. The best part was that this happened as a result of conversations between participants, not because of any big speeches from me.

Here’s my favourite outcome from one of the attendees at the session:

http://www.scoop.it/t/vocational-rehabilitation

This is a learning resource for her team and it could be a marketing resource for the business. We just showed them what Scoop.it does, they connected the dots.

What’s not gone so well?

If you look at the numbers the one at the bottom sticks out. This is disappointing, but not exactly surprising. I think it’s partly down to culture and partly down to systems.

Chatter is a decent enough enterprise social tool. However, we only use Chatter.com, the free version. This means people have to log on every time they want to use it and it means we have to create an account manually for every user. At the moment we have about 300 people on Chatter, I wouldn’t like to guess how many of them actually remember their passwords. The only active group is HR.

So what can we do to get more people involved? Why haven’t I gone out and invited everyone to join Chatter?

The short answer to those questions is “Sharepoint”.

Didn’t expect that now did you! Aside from Love learning there was another big internal launch in January – Business networking. This is based in Sharepoint 2010. If you compare the usability of Sharepoint with Chatter, there can only be one winner.

And yet Sharepoint does have some significant strengths over Chatter:

1. Single Sign On – It’s seamlessly integrated within our intranet. So you can link anyone to anything you post.

2. You can Blog – Chatter has a 1000 character limit. It’s designed for twitter style conversations, which are obviously useful, but then so are blogs.

3. Video – we have a new integrated video platform which means we can share rich content. Pretty handy when all video sites are blocked.

4. It’s the corporate choice – while I wouldn’t have chosen it myself, we will be expected to make a go of it. We have an opportunity to show the rest of the company exactly what you can do through communities of practice and collaboration and we can help to develop the platform.

We really need a working social community hub to make Love Learning self sustaining. At the moment we’re using work-arounds via the Intranet, but I’ve started work on a community site in Sharepoint to try to solve this.

It won’t be perfect, but it is the best option available at the moment.

So the next steps are to:

  1. get a working version of the community site ready for people to play with
  2. follow up on the webinar and keep momentum going
  3. attend as many manager meetings as we can to spread the word face to face
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L&D need to get on the curation bandwagon. Here’s why..

I’ve been meaning to follow-up on my first post on curation for a while now, but it wasn’t until I read Nigel Paine’s article on Training Zone that I felt compelled to get this post together. The bit I really liked was Nigel’s mantra “curate first, create second” which I could not agree with more.

Embracing curation as a part of your learning strategy makes sense for many reasons. For starters as I said in the previous article it’s a “gateway drug” to becoming what Bob Mosher and Con Gottfredson call “dynamic learners” and we all need more of those.

It can also save you money. If you have a third-party content library you may be better off curating instead. If you don’t have a library of general learning resources, curation means you can create one for free.

  • Curation lets you grab the best content from the best online authors. A lot of content libraries are staid, dull and out of date.
  • With Curation you control the meta data, this means you can give each article the tags that make sense to your employees.
  • You can link articles to your company’s goals and make them relevant for your audience.

Remember good curation is about understanding what your audience needs and cares about.

Most companies spend thousands of pounds each year on basic Microsoft IT skills training. Not only does this cost a lot in cash, it usually means going on a whole day course out of the office, when what you really need is performance support. The right resource for the right person at the right time – at the moment of application.

If you search You Tube for Excel tutorials you will find a plethora of resources. Some will be better than others of course, but that’s where your skills as a learning professional come in to evaluate how effective they are likely to be for your audience. You could quite conceivably use a tool like Pinterest, Scoop.it or Learnfizz to create a collection of tagged resources covering all the main functions of MS Office and it wouldn’t cost you a penny. Yes it will take you time to collect and review and yes you may not have access to YouTube at work, but perhaps this is the clear business case you need to change all that?

I thought twice about calling curation a bandwagon in the title of this post as it’s clearly a pejorative term. However, the rapidly expanding number of tools in this sector means it is a bubble that surely cannot be sustained. This doesn’t mean it’s going to disappear, but it does mean that you need to choose your platform carefully if you want to be sure of using the same one this time next year. And while most options are free to use, it’s worth considering a paid option, as it generally brings security and peace of mind. Developers who get paid tend to provide a better service.

You might not want to limit yourself to just one tool. They all have slightly different strengths, Scoop.it is a great all-rounder with fantastic search engines, Pinterest is visually appealing, Pearl Trees is great for exploring related topics and making serendipitous discoveries and Learnfizz focuses on learning.

If you are going to use a variety of tools you want to be able to pull them together into some sort of portal, perhaps on your intranet or blog, to make it easy for your audience to access. So part of your selection should involve asking ” how can I extract the content?”. Scoop.it has RSS feeds for each of your topics so people can get them straight to their inbox or feed reader. It even gives you the code to export an iframe with a dynamic slider showing your latest topics. Wouldn’t that look good on your intranet?

Once you’ve chosen a tool and topic, you need to figure out how you are going to cultivate the skills and habits of a good curator. It’s really important to figure out how you can integrate curating into your daily routine. If you don’t do this you won’t find the content you need. Curation requires passion and discipline. Here are some tips:

  • Identify the times in your average day that you could spend curating. Perhaps during your commute if you take the bus or train, or maybe during your lunch break.
  • Aim for about 30 minutes a day and put in your calendar.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at a time – you don’t need to create a comprehensive library in the first week.
  • Get your team involved – many hands make light work (just make sure they are as clued up as you)
  • If you get several people involved you can focus on quality – even three or four articles a week each will build into a quality resource quite quickly.

Don’t just focus on the quality of the content, focus on the quality of your own curation. Remember you add value when you add context. Two or three well positioned articles that clearly link to issues your organisation is facing, will resonate more strongly with your audience than hundreds of generic articles. You also add value when you make the user experience simpler so always take time to add metadata to organise the collection.

That’s the difference between aggregation and curation.

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Review of Chatter Project

Background

Chatter is a social business communication tool, provided free to Salesforce.com customers. We began using Chatter in January 2011 as a potental tool to improve collaboration. So far Chatter has been piloted accross a broad range of small groups. In total there are 98 registered users and 14 groups. The only group so far to provide structured feedback were those who attended a recent reward and recognition conference. This post focuses on their feedback and what we can learn from it, but will also highlight relevant observations from some of the other groups and suggest future applications of the tool.

Recognition Conference Group Feedback

We set up a group on Chatter for all of the participants of our Recognition Conference (about 60 people in total). The group aimed to:

  • Make all the information available to the attendees without swamping their inboxes
  • Start the networking early and allow the winners to meet each other online before the event
  • To book and arrange activities
  • To post answers to common questions in a central location
  • Provide a unique space for the winners

There were 47 replies to the question below which was asked in the feedback survey for the Conference:

Chatter Satisfaction Survey Results

25 people left comments relating specifically to Chatter:

Chatter survey feedback comments

The most common criticisim was that users found it inconvenient to have to find the link to the site and login. Some suggested that it should link to the company active directory, but this feature is not available on Chatter.com. However, if you use the desktop application it logs you in automatically. It can also be set to start automatically when you start your computer. We did not explore this option prior to the event because IT would have had to install the app individually for everyone.  If we had done this it could have simplified and improved the user experience.

The other negative comments could have been avoided with a more thorough system induction. Although we did schedule some online drop-in sessions, take-up was very low, even though some people were clearly struggling to get to grips with simple functionality. They didn’t tell us about their problems so we couldn’t help them. If we had put more effort into welcoming people onto the system we could have provided more personalised guidance on using it and built relationships with the users so that they would have felt more comfortable asking for help either on or off line.

Communities need active facilitators to welcome engage and support members. This is not optional, it’s essential. The best example of this I’ve seen is on Jane Hart’s Social Learning site; every new member received a personal welcome to the site, this engaged them and made them feel more comfortable about contributing and asking for help. It’s a lot of work and when you’re at work with a million and one other things to do you can easily make excuses for not going to these lengths, but quite simply you must.

Where Next with Chatter?

We need to decide the next steps for our use of Chatter. How else can we use this tool and how can we learn from our experiences?

One of the early worries came when we launched the Recognition Conference Group. We let things go viral and people started inviting their friends to Chatter and began communicating, not always in ways we thought were appropriate. Although this caused a few nervous moments it does not mean we should avoid these tools:

Social media doesn’t “cause” unprofessional or inappropriate behavior. It “catches” it” – Lisa Nielsen

“Social business gets the best out of companies’ values, both the good and the bad; it will expose your corporate culture big time” Luis Suarez via Twitter

It may be tempting to avoid using tools like Chatter because they are so open, because we perceive them to be risky. The main risk is that we will expose negative behaviours and negative aspects of our culture. Are we really afraid of the truth, or should we be bold and brace ourselves to deal with these issues as they come up and use them to improve our business?

There are many different ways in which we could use Chatter both to support learning and internal communications. At the moment it seems sensible to continue using Chatter to pilot new ideas and to start building a more collaborative culture, which is one of the objectives we set out to achieve in January.

Possible future Chatter projects:

Future Chatter Projects

Conclusions:

To use Chatter, or any similar tool, successfully you need to..

  • make it as easy as possible for users to gain access
  • welcome them onto the system individually to build rapport
  • provide plenty of online support
  • position the tool as a way to solve problems
  • target small audiences to give provide personalisation and context


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Learning to use Social Media at work

Do we need to train employees to use social collaborative tools effectively?  

NO! Of course not almost everybody uses Facebook, or Twitter…don’t they?

Well firstly, no they don’t.

Yes, many of them have an account, but just because they have an account doesn’t mean they use it. Secondly, using the tools for social/recreational purposes is not the same as using them for work. Even those of us that use them semi-professionally, as Personal Learning Networks, will need to adapt our online style for a behind the firewall, enterprise only platform.

But does this require training?  Er.. yes and no..

Social/collaboration tools are really just communication vehicles and in more traditional companies you won’t get very far if you tell the managers “hey look at this it’s Facebook for (insert company name here)“. The key to successful adoption is to use them to solve problems. Each problem you successfully solve is like a seed germinating. As you plant more seeds across the business they should start to link to each other organically, but you can’t leave this to chance; Community Management is vital to success, as Clark Quinn of the ITA says you have to seed, feed and weed your community.

I recently introduced Chatter to some of our Customer Services managers and while I did position it as a way to solve a problem, I probably said too much about the wider possibilities when I should have just shut up and let them figure out the rest for themselves.

The reaction was predictable; they were concerned about the usual stuff, goofing off, posting inappropriate comments and posting work related advice that might be incorrect. These objections are straightforward to handle, but they do seem to require much repeating before they are accepted (see Jane Hart’s site for a list of great answers). After my presentation the meeting agenda moved back to the day to day concerns of their department. They talked about how they communicated changes to procedures. The changes came from one department then one person in each Customer Service team was responsible for explaining them in “layman’s terms” to their teams. So this one task was being duplicated at least 4 times in one location alone. It was at this point I made a rather obvious suggestion relating to my earlier presentation..

Now I won’t pretend that this is going to change all of their views on social media, but if we can solve specific problems across the business using Chatter then we are embedding it as a tool and it becomes a  part of their work flow. This is a fundamentally different concept when compared to “Hello! Let’s all join the Company Community (companies are not communities)

This way we can help teams learn how to use the tool appropriately in smaller groups and because it has a work based context right from the start it should be perceived less as “Facebook for enterprise” and if you work somewhere like I do that’s important.

Make Progress not War

Who is your closest, most trusted and valuable business partner?

If the answer isn’t an influential member of IT – you’re probably going wrong somewhere.

Without their support you will never create the user experience you dream of for your learners. And if you can’t do that you’ll always struggle to engage them. And if you can’t do that..

Many of us are guilty of going to war with the IT department. The reality of that is you will always be the “daring rebels fighting oppression”, but without the right allies it’s a war you cannot and will not win.

Guerrilla activities may be necessary, in the early days, to try new things out and gather experience and evidence, under the radar, to prove that what you want to do with learning technology is worthwhile. But the longer these skirmishes continue the more damage you are likely to do to your longer term relationship with IT.

Sooner or later you have to lay down your weapons and come to the negotiating table. Diplomacy is the only course of action that will lead to long lasting, profitable peace.

Sure, it’s great fun to pillory the “innovation prevention” department, but whilst we lambast them for their ignorance of what we’re trying to do, how well do you understand their world? What are the pressures and challenges they face?

I was lucky enough to attend the kick-off meeting of our Global Learning Technology Steering Group yesterday where I witnessed the Learning people and the Technology people working in harmony towards a shared vision – that’s when it (finally) dawned on me that we can all get along. No, it hasn’t produced anything yet, but the language being used and the fact that the project sponsors are from both sides of the divide, gives me confidence and optimism that we can work together effectively to deliver great results for the business.

So perhaps it’s time to stop complaining about what we can’t do and sit down with IT to found out how we can work together.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner” – Nelson Mandela

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