How to Deploy Social Media Learning Successfully

The last talk I’ve attended has been with Euan Semple, Author of Organisation’s Don’t Tweet, People Do. He started his talk unpacking the title of his own talk which I like as an approach as it shows what a presenter thinks about his own talk and shows a level of self awareness and gives the presenter some real presence and authenticity.

He began by talking about how everything we do is learning. Wehn the advent of elearnign came along, it didn’t make traditional L&D better, it still felt like training in a classroom, because it was one way, sitting at your chair following a lesson plan on the screen instead of a teacher. He described that people don’t work that way, and in particular the web doesn’t work that way. It’s messy and is all over the place. Web users are not passive consumers, they actively take in the content they’re searching for.

Euan started using social tools some 12 years ago with the likes of wikis, blogs, RSS feeds and bulletin boards. They didn’t need approvals to be started and he was even able to do a lot on his own systems within the BBC at the time. The tools grew through usage by the population and natural advocacy until they got to a size where they needed to become something formal.

Even then, the prevailing attitudes were “why do I need to bother with these tools”, and these still persist today. Companies naturally seem to want to bring things back in house and create technological beasts, which just doesn’t make sense. Online, people are creating their own natural learning spaces. on Facebook, people have learning pages and groups, on Google+ there are hangouts, on LinkedIn there are sharing groups (some with up to 600,000 users), YouTube has helped to facilitate learning through things like Khan Academy (name check?).

More and more people are gaining access to free and accessible platforms that they can do things themselves with if they want to. Organisations can’t be responsbile for all learning that happens, but they can allow it to happen. Ideas need to start like trojan mice – start small, see what happens, and if there’s something to it, advocacy will naturally happen and something will grow out of it.

The internet is about globall distributed conversations, and organisations need to allow conversations to happen, not control them. Some people may spout rubbish, and that’s ok, others may spout great content. The myth of “oh but someone will do us irreprable damage” is a good thing as you can find out who the morons are and deal with that behaviour.

As L&D we need to be good at curating content. We can’t manage content, there’s just too much being developed. But we can discern what will be useful for our people. We can create knowledge economies, through which there is a lot of value to be gaines. We can’t capture knowledge, and to think we can is a falsehood. When you use these social tools, you naturally end up leaving a trace of who you are, and that’s valuable in itself.

There is a price of pomposity within organisations. You condition behaviours when you try to direct them and this is something we need to be careful about.

Internal learning is in direct competition with the web. People will only do more and more in the future, and there will only be an evolution of networks. We need to help people act in ways that will help this to happen.

Developing and Deploying Internal Coaches

One of the afternoon sessions was about Developing and Deploying Internal Coaches. Research has shown that coaching in organisations is the second best form of learning (the first being on the job learning). The opportunity for staff development is only limited by the resources the business chooses to invest in a programme like this.

The key to making a programme like this work, is by having a group of coaches who are part of the business and not just from the HR/L&D functions. Simon Dennis from Fujitsu UK & Ireland, helped to reinforce this. He has a full time role in the business, and is a Coaching Ambassador for the UK. This means he does coaching and leads the coaching programme as well as doing his full time role. Fujitsu UK & Ireland are a company of 11000, and they have 45 internal coaches.

Once the idea of having internal coaches was sold, they developed an internal community of people and then developed their own internal model called the Fujitsu Coaching Continuum. Using the company logo (the infinity symbol), they created a process for how to give support and development of coaching. I like this reinforcement of the brand logo matched with creating an internal model. When companies do this well it only creates greater sense of citizenship and connection to the company. The other thing I like about their approach is how they give full training to their coaches and have an internal community of practise who come together and constantly look at what they are doing, how they are doing it, and what they can change/improve to make the coaching experience better for them, and the people begin coached. Usefully, they developed a word language template which helps give ideas on how to explain what language to use when in different parts of the coaching conversation.

Coral Ingleton from Kent County Council talked about how she worked with a partner to create a coaching network internally in the council. They created a network across organisations where reciprocal coaching takes place. Unfortunately she ended up talking more about benefits of coaching as opposed to how it is embedded and deployed. I like the idea that this is reciprocal coaching and not paid. Staff who want to be part of the programme, go through formal qualification process and become part of the network. This network is then available to individuals outside the organisation they work for, so they can be called on to be a coach for anyone requesting it from the network (and by default the organisation you are part of too).

Integrating Technology and Learning

First session on day two of HRD12 is about Integrating Technology and Learning with insight from the BBC on how they do this. Anne Morrison, Director of the BBC Academy explains how they’ve used a variety of technology to do this within the organisation.

This is a fascinating session that covers a good range of content on how the BBC have gone on this journey. They have a suite of internal delivery methods from courses to events to intranets, and open content they are happy to be shared with the industry, for it to be distributed, and using events, festivals, podcasts and social media to help learning to happen.

The types of learning that goes online for them are: information, updates, tips, reminders, simulations and compliance. There is possibility to have cross over of what is covered online and offline, and this is where blended learning often takes place.

They’ve found some really useful things that work well:
– reaching distributed and fragmented audiences
– reaching the industry
– ROI for larger number of users
– tracking and reporting
– brevity
– knowledge and information resources
– sharing experience
– creating scenarios

Interestingly, they leave the content in the hands of the users, and trust users to generate the content that is required. Those using the online sites are also going to be the voice of the user, so the content creation and curation is left with users. I like this a lot. As part of this, they also trust users to develop content in the format that fits best from elearning courses through to podcasts through to social media.

What happened to the people agenda?

While listening to the various talks and hearing from respective speakers at speakers at #HRD12, I’m left with an over-riding thought that will not prove popular. In the main, HR Directors and L&D Directors are not doing enough to move the people agenda beyond boxes being ticked, meeting compliance standards and getting better engagement scores. There are some very good leaders at that level who I respect a great deal. But when you have organisations like the CIPD asking these people to come and talk about their organisations, I’m looking to get some real nuggets of insight into how you’ve positively changed the business. Often, I’m left lacking and thinking what I’m doing is more than enough, and in some cases a lot better than the presented organisation.

This raises a few questions. By what standard are we saying the people agenda is of significant calibre that they should be presented at a conference? Some of the speakers requested to attend shouldn’t be the ones speaking. Send someone else from the organisation who has the charisma, know how and ability to present to a large group of people. Your title does not mean you have the fit or ability to speak. Although I bet someone in your team does.

For all the talk of engaging employees with new fangled technologies, how many senior leaders are actively using the tools available to them to do this engaging? Again, I only know a few who do, and the respect they have is bar none. Where’s all the resistance to usage coming from? What perceptions are they battling with? What barriers are they presenting themselves that they don’t want to take part in the conversation? Allowing your staff to use tools, and having an open approach to engagement is not the end game. You need to be in the thick of it.

One of the presentations I attended was about engaging Gen Y, and I was expecting to hear about how L&D methodologies have changed in their organisations to meet the changing ways of learning and attention being grabbed. I learned a lot about great recruitment strategies, but nothing about the delivery of learning. I learned more about how companies like Skill Pill can enable mobile based learning, and it’s another way to consider delivery. This tells me L&D is not doing enough to be innovative in the way we deliver learning, but also we’re not being challenged sufficiently to really push that boat. I take this personally. I love what I do, and think I deliver learning in ways that are varied and interesting, and I don’t think I’m doing good enough.

We’re in a constantly changing world and that brings with it a lot of opportunity and risk to try new things. So who should be the Chief Creative Officer when one doesn’t exist in your organisation? Who should be the Chief Listening Officer? Who’s being the Chief Story Teller? I would suggest these roles sit with these senior leaders from HR and L&D. We have the space and authority to fulfil those roles, it just seems we’re shy of being responsible for them.

I think there should be an HR Director / L&D Director summit where they discuss the people agenda and finally come up with what they think they’re trying to achieve.

Learning in the Social Workplace

My first afternoon session is a panel discussion on Learning in the Social Workplace. As it’s a panel, it’s going to be tricky to write some clear notes on this. This post will almost read more like bullet points.

Samantha Hackett from Save the Children spoke first, where the global organisation has 15000 staff. They embarked a change in learning using elearning some years ago. In recent years there’s a need to move to use mobile technology. Using social media to help people talk to other people who are in the same situation. Using tools like LinkedIn to share content quickly and easily. Informal learning happens all the time. Content is readily accessible on the web, and in this kind of organisation it’s about helping to share the knowledge easily and very accessible. Name drops to Moodle by way of a LMS and Skill Pill for creating mobile based learning in bite sized chunks. The attitudes of staff can be the biggest barrier to new learning. There is a future where the SLT are made up of people from their respective countries.

From the RAF, Group Captain Phil Sagar gives his thoughts on how to do more with less in the face of cuts. This piece was quite focused on the technology married with real life learning. Quite impressive, just not easy to capture the key learnings from. Their starting point was about taking a learner centred approach. There are real challenges on keeping information secure where possible, and accessible at the same time. “Gate Keepers” can be a real barrier to encouraging new usage to happen. You have to be open to good ideas in the business in order to move forward.

Rob Jones, Head of Organisational Effectiveness at Crossrail, talks about his personal experience of using social media. “I used to send a tweet, and then sent a text to my friend asking if he saw my tweet”. He’s created friendships, sought information, and has helped him to learn a lot about himself. You have to be in it to win it with social media. Don’t use policy to control social media usage at work, trust your colleagues. We shouldn’t measure what social media brings – we don’t ask about the ROI of the telephone.

Becoming a Learning Organisation

You know what doesn’t work in a conference session where you want to learn about stuff? Getting a plug about how excellent the company giving the case study is. I don’t really care, because I want to hear what you’re doing. I don’t want to see frameworks, or models that you’ve created internally, not without knowing I can replicate them, which I most likely can’t.

Cue Andy Holmes from Ernst and Young. There could have been so much shared about how they are a learning organisation. Instead it was about a progression plan and a career framework. Nothing about the actual things they do to make it a learning organisation. Just broad descriptions of how a robust Learning Management System is in place for staff to take on their own learning, and there is coaching in the organisation.

They have counsellors to help staff talk through learning and career goals.

Sorry, not a lot to share from this.

Then with a sudden burst of energy, Andy Doyle from ITV, took control of the room and started us on his story of what is happening in his organisation. As the Group HR Director, it was very interesting to hear him talk as you might expect a Producer or Creative Director to talk. he described how, for ITV, he doesn’t talk in HR Speak. He talks about things in everyday business language to his team and to his peers. A nice example of this was if he said “Let’s become a learning organisation!”, the response would come back “Not with you!”. They stopped focusing on frameworks, and instead focused on performance management being an important part of the way people are managed. L&D initiatives are done with large groups of about 90, to create a sense of occasion and using brilliant facilitators to make them useful events.

The senior leadership involvement is quite impressive too. They are involved in co-delivering training where they can which brings with it a great sense of engagement. The Exec team held a series of monthly open lunch sessions where staff could come along and talk with one Exec person at a dedicated lunch. This really needs to be one of the key activities for a learning organisation to happen. If the Executive teams and Senior Leadership Teams are not making the efforts to help it be successful, then it won’t be.