While formal processes are important, they probably account for just 20 percent of the learning in any given organization. The other 80 percent of learning happens informally, in hallways or online. It’s this 80 percent that talent managers need to focus on to harness the power of innovation inside and outside an organization.
By increasing collaboration and informal learning, organizations will be able to tap into valuable resources they didn’t even know existed. Take, for example, The Educe Group, a consulting services firm that implements and manages technologies that enable an organization’s people to learn, collaborate, achieve, and be rewarded in the workplace. Nyla Reed, founding partner, said she knew last year that she needed to make her organization more agile because of the increasingly competitive and rapidly changing strategic consulting environment. There was an abundance of information available within the organization, but leaders needed a method to unlock, filter and effectively make use of the content. The company started using Saba’s social enterprise product in 2012 to more efficiently on-board employees and cut response time to client inquiries.
The Educe Group employees now drive their own on-boarding and professional development — with clearly outlined expectations — without managers’ direct involvement. Giving “power to the people” created a more transparent environment where new employees can run through a checklist of on-boarding activities in a platform, including what learning the company expects them to take and all of the HR administration tasks associated with a new hire. This has generated direct benefits to the bottom line through lower travel costs and a reduced need for in-person administrative support.
The increased internal collaboration has facilitated The Educe Group’s business success, which relies on speed of response to provide information and assistance to clients. The firm has empowered its employees by giving them a platform to ask questions to an entire community and receive feedback and responses instantly. Almost immediately after implementing the product, the firm noticed a faster response time on client issues, since employees can collaborate on the fly, handling customers’ issues more quickly.
“I’ve gained insight into my team’s activities that I never had with weekly one-on-one meetings,” Reed said. “I am now able to see in real time how my employees are collaborating to solve problems, what kinds of issues they are experiencing and the types of resources they are leveraging to do their work. More often than not I find that our social enterprise platform allows them to learn from each other and better reuse knowledge, precluding the need for me to get involved at the detailed level where I used to find myself.”
Organizations such as The Educe Group can follow a set of best practices to tap into employees’ collective knowledge and drive innovation and continuous learning in the business:
• Find targeted opportunities such as customer support or sales training to use social and collaboration technologies to address a specific development need or to enhance formal learning processes.
• Start small with a focused team or regional office and show good results before expanding technology rollouts.
• Make it easy for employees to connect with each other, and incentivize them to share content, ideas and connections in social and collaboration environments. An easy-to-use interface and the ability for colleagues to provide positive public feedback can bring desired outcomes.
• Use social and collaboration tools to provide continuous feedback and make recommendations on how employees can sharpen their skills every day. Public and private channels enable colleagues and managers to share timely information and feedback.
Amar Dhaliwal is senior vice president of product strategy at Saba, a learning and talent management company. He can be reached at email@example.com.