Friday’s Finds: December 14th Edition

by alison

Meeting Table by mnadi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  mnadi 

    When teams begin to work in matrices, collaborating across functions and geographies, the skills, behaviours and competencies required for work must also change. This is what I heard yet again this week in a networked learning webinar that I attended. I also learned that leaders around the executive tables across the globe—regardless of industry—are demanding significant performance gains from staff in times of limited human resources.

    This recent article from Chief Learning Officer describes the issue well:

    According to the Bersin & Associates study, large business investment in social learning tools nearly doubled in 2011 to $40,000. Social learning is no longer an experiment. Companies increasingly use it to drive innovation in their learning organizations. By allowing employees to collaborate, share ideas and exchange information, organizations are empowering users to teach one another and are supporting conversations that naturally foster creativity and problem solving.

    The investment in social learning is another example of U.S. companies reinvesting in training to address the skills gap. It also signals a turning away from formal classroom training and traditional e-learning programs to only deliver learning workers need, just in time…

    The recession only increased the pressure on learning organizations to become more cost effective, leverage online social learning and align more closely with business needs. These pressures also forced a change in roles within the learning function. Traditional classroom instructors are now delivering more training online and in one-to-one sessions. Learning organizations are moving beyond order taking and are building consulting skills to provide effective recommendations and solutions to business partners.

    Again, the statistics on firms’ current capacity for networked performance show that there is a lot of room for improvement—only 1/3rd of employees are currently displaying capability for networked learning.  We cannot ask individuals to work harder, only smarter and the key to doing this comes down to embedding networked learning activities into daily workflows to help drive network performance. Again, informal learning is where the greatest gains lie and in times of tight budgets, this is welcome news. We all need to learn to ‘work smarter’ and Jane Hart has been working on determining how to introduce this to learners in organisations. (I’m looking forward to seeing where this work leads.)

    Though informal learning is the area that provides the greatest impact, networked learning skills should be reinforced throughout other learning activities in the organisation, including formal training. Note: formal training should include intact teams and those who work together through workflows to help allow time for teams to learn and practice how to work and learn together in more of a networked environment. Employees who work together should learn together: Learning together helps to build an understanding of the need for reciprocity, it can enhance relationships and it also ensures that the learning is relevant to the task at hand.

    One interesting example of formal learning that integrates networked learning involves the identification of informal leaders to problem solve issues, motivate their peers and reinforce learning. The idea behind this: Informal leaders are ideal candidates for integrating networked learning activities because of the dynamic between them and their colleagues—they are both connected to the ‘ground’ to help peers see the relevance of the learning to everyday workflows and informal leaders have the respect of their cohort needed to motivate and reinforce what is being learned. Here is one example of how to do that:

    1. Informal leaders were gathered and selected to be included in training (in this case, the training was to address safety issues)
    2. These informal leaders reviewed safety stories and identified behaviours that were reducing performance. They then identified what should be done differently and how they would influence their peers to achieve this goal (in this case, improving workplace safety).
    3. Following this, informal leaders delivered a training session for peers where they identified issues through stories, and suggested ways to work differently to become a safer workplace.
    4. These sessions inspire reciprocity—a key part of networked learning/work—as peers, who trust their informal leader colleagues, begin sharing stories about why the issue is important… and in essence learn from each other.

    Pretty innovative stuff, IMHO.