Tuesday 29 June 2010

Social learning – why it’s important and how we can use it


This is a continuation on my thoughts following last week’s Social Learning Zone webinar (see part 1).


Why is it important?

This is about low cost and high capability development, given the need for emotional / social context, and organisational as well as individual learning (shared mental models etc).

As I explained, I think the word and idea behind the work, ‘social’ are important, and I think organisations need to be comfortable to use this (see this post – don’t get made sick by the social).

I liked the tweet from Martin Couzins referring to Dave Weinnberger’s quote which explains the ‘why’ of social learning: ‘knowledge isn’t in our heads, it is between us’.


I do agree with Abi Signorelli and Jenni Wheller that other changes like remote working and Gen Y are enablers, but I don’ think they're the main drivers / benefits of this.

The Gen Y point reminds me of Fons Trompenaars international cultures work where he suggests that if you take any particular trait, the difference within one group is always going to be greater than the difference between groups.  Ie there’s probably more or as much variation within the Gen Y population than there is between the average usages of Gen Y vs other generations.


How can we use it?

My suggestions were those from the slide above.

But I also liked Abi’s suggestions to create social spaces in every office whether people can socialise and learn using offline and online methods; and also of internet cafes – shareable PCs set up as a social learning zone (sort of what I think SHRM are doing at their annual conference with a Social Media Room).


What does this mean for HR / L&D?

We had to skip over this quite fast.  The point I wanted to make is that I think social learning requires a move towards L&D being a strategic partner vs a designer and deliverer of learning.  I thought Dhruv Devasher summed it up quite well – the role involves facilitating and supporting the exchanges, maintaining the tools, capturing, codifying and disseminating pockets of shared knowledge / technical knowledge too.

Of course, that’s been the direction of travel for some time, but most organisations haven’t made much progress.  Social learning is going to reinforce the need to make this journey, and to quicken progress.

Read Dan Pontefract’s remarks on my recent live blog from last week’s social learning session in Boston, and also Dan’s follow-up about the need to bring together HR and IT.



This wasn’t something I addressed specifically, but came through as an important focus for people from many of the tweets.

Because, given everything I described and have reviewed above, and as Julian Summerhayes noted: if there’s so much power with social media, and with the £ crisis, you wonder why more people are not using it to deliver training (and enable learning).  Good point.


One problem is very practical- eg Alana Inness asked how do we get round the challenge of staff who don’t have internet access in their work place – eg bank cashiers, call centres?  And another question from Michelle Kaye was how do you get round companies block on games / virtual worlds?

To me, this is about focus and ambition.  Do you want to do social or not.  If you do, you’re not going to ban access to games, and you’re going to find a way to give your cashiers access (like how McDonald’s put a PC in every restaurant, or ASDA in every store).


Ken Moir raised another good challenge to social learning: How to address audience expectations of a ‘sage on a stage’?  Upending the passive content intake model can generate active resistance.

I think this one is more about culture than strategy, but a lot of it depends on the same thing – on an understanding and commitment to social.  Helping people understand that this is valid and important.


And there was another interesting exchange between Ken and Dhruv:

Ken: Is free & open sharing a realistic expectation of real, emotional human beings interacting in stressful / competitive environments?

and: Lack of trust is a universal obstacle to social media use.  In fairness, the odd loose cannon can do ‘massive’ damage.

Dhruv: Should an organisation exert control to prevent loose cannons and does that hurt the platform?


In my view, keeping things too tight will will hurt the platform.  You don’t want to make people question using the technology (apart from clearly inappropriate comments).

I was asked a similar question at my Kenexa presentation recently.  I responded to this by thinking back to a discussion at Informatology where someone made the point that we trust people when we recruit them (or we wouldn’t do so – hopefully), so why can’t we treat them as adults after they join?  I talked about BT and AXA and how these companies have found they’ve needed to take very little disciplinary action around the use of social media.  However, I was reminded afterwards that the point I should have as well was that most effective communities are self correcting – that the community will respond to loose cannons.  The organisation / community manager won’t normally need to be the one to do this (also see my recent Social Advantage post on Community).


And Ken raised yet another good point – that formal training’s easier to administer, control and measure than social learning – that’s why HR likes it.   I mentioned this one in the webinar.  I think it’s sad.  But true.


I also liked Alana Inness’s question: will we lose skills required for face2face interaction (eg negotiation, differences resolution etc) with more reliance on 2.0 tools)?

My view – I don’t think we will.  Partly because I think 2.0 interaction leads to increased f2f interaction, rather than the reverse ( a point I’ve made on Abi’s post about Introversion / Extroversion in 2.0).  And secondly, because of a point made by JP Rangaswami from BT Design at last week’s E2.0 conference: that while increased use of social media my reduce individual skills (make people dumber), it increases the skills of the organisation as a whole. (Abi, sorry I didn’t come back to you on this again – I’m not sure about the original research.)


There were other points too.  Culture was raised a lot.  Strategy too (Julian: don’t we need to consider what the strategy is before just worrying about the tools?).  Yes.  But these are separate webinar subjects I think!


That’s your lot.  But thanks very much for all the tweets (and comments on Citrix I still haven’t seen – other than those Verity read out).  They’re all highly valued – by me and by others too (eg Debbie McNamara’s tweet: Can’t be on the webinar but getting lots of good information from the feeds!  Isn’t that working the talk!).

And it would be good to hear your further thoughts – do comment below.



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Monday 28 June 2010

HR and Communities (Talking HR 029)

   Yes there was a reason why I suddenly did those two Social Advantage posts on communities (1, 2): so that I could refer to them in tonight’s podcast on the role of communities, their importance, their management (or facilitation!), and also on the HR function’s role in supporting them (see this post at Strategic HCM).

For this show, Krishna and I were joined by Claire Boyles from Management Matters.  Thanks a lot, Claire, it was great speaking with you.

You can listen to the archive here.


Picture: Community Maturity Model from the Community Roundtable


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  • .

Connecting HR and ‘Community’


   We had another great ‘Connecting HR’ tweet-up last week.

One of the issues at the back of my mind during the evening revolved around the idea of community, and Gareth Jones’ email to attendees prior to the tweet-up that mentioned the ‘Connecting HR community’.

Now, personally, I’m not sure that this group of people is a community as yet, although there are, I think, signs of one developing.  And I’m not sure I’d use the C word at this stage as I don’t think you can make a group into a community simply by calling it one.

But I do see where Gareth is coming from, and agree that it would be great if Connecting HR does develop into a community, because I do think there is a need for more social connection and meaningful relationships between practitioners in HR and talent management, and across the different disciplines within this (resourcing, development, communication, legislation etc).

So my thoughts went back to the discussions on community at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston the week before this.  I have still to complete my postings from this conference, including those on community, but you can review my current status of postings at http://bit.ly/e20conf.

But there was also this short conversation over Twitter that got me thinking about HR and community:



So, is community management the new HR?  And if it is, how many practitioners understand this?

We’re going to be talking about this issue on Talking HR at 7.30pm BST / 2.30pm ET today.  Do join us if you can.



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Friday 25 June 2010

Human Capital Institute webinar today


HCI Webinar   OK, time to start thinking about today’s webinar with the Human Capital Institute…

This is at 2.00pm BST (9.00 am ET) and you can still book here.


You’ll also find my guest blog post on employer branding, technology and enterprise 2.0 (linking back to last week’s conference in Boston) at HCI.org.



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Thursday 24 June 2010

Social branding


  One of the things I want to talk briefly about on tomorrow’s Employer Branding webcast is my idea of ‘social branding’.

I still need to do more thinking around this before tomorrow, but I’m going to suggest that as well as an EVP and employer brand, companies need to think about their ‘Social Value Proposition’ (SVP) and ‘social brand’.

Why?  Because more and more of what we do at work is about our relationships with other people.  It’s why I’ve included ‘people’ as a major element in my EVP model for so long, and why I’ve argued that people and relationships need to be a major focus of engagement surveys.

But it’s more than this.  It’s not just about how organisations treat their people.  It’s how people treat each other.  What’s our offer to our colleagues and others we work with?

And this is different to an EVP because it’s not about what’s done to us, it’s about what we do with each other.

And I suspect it’s going to be an increasingly important enabler for engagement as well as collaboration and productivity.


Of course, I realise this is probably just going to result in increased confusion.  Those who have come across social branding before will link it to either and ethical focus or the simple use of social media.  But hey, there’s nothing I can do about that.


What do you think?  Any ideas for the factors that should be included in a SVP?

Or is this idea just nuts (it’s probably not too late to take out the slide!).




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  • HCI Webcast: Telling the European Employer Brand Story


       Just a reminder that I’ll be presenting this inaugral webcast in HCI’s new European programme at 2.00pm BST (9.00am ET) tomorrow, Friday 25 June.

    Telling the European Employer Brand Story

    Track: Talent Strategy in Europe
    WEBCAST: Webcast Airs: June 25, 2010


    We often hear about the need to continually attract, motivate and retain our employees. Many of us tie these issues to our employee brand and continually strive to become an employer of choice. But are we missing out on opportunities to utilize technology to improve our brand and solidify our place in the global market? Technologies that are already being utilized by your company can assist you in maintaining brand integrity and driving employee engagement.

    This webcast will look at multiple technology platform that can work with your existing brand-- and provide big results at a small investment level. We'll look at corporate social networking as a tool to create "employee ambassadors" and see how creating relationship brands and leveraging the social web can promote grass roots brand engagement. We'll also examine best practices from companies who have leveraged their technology systems-- and find out what pitfalls to avoid.

    For our European audience, please join us at 2PM BST.



    The webcast fits neatly with my current focus on HR 2.0 and I might even be mentioning Social Learning yet again!



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    Wednesday 23 June 2010

    Personnel Today - Social HR and Learning 2.0


    PT mouse   I interrupt this short-term focus on social learning / learning 2.0 (and my Social Learning Zone webinar) to broaden the focus back out to social HR / HR 2.0, and my previous focus on and around the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

    Actually, this isn’t that much of a shift as the presentations on HR 2.0 in Boston largely focused on Learning 2.0 as well - maybe because the presenting companies were mainly Saba customers.

    This article in Personnel Today explains more.



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    Social Learning Zone follow-up


       Here’s some reflections on the tweets from yesterday’s webinar (I’ve not yet had a chance to review the comments made over Citrix Online).


    What is social learning?

    There were some great suggestions on this:

    • Michelle Kaye: learning from others
    • Abi Signorelli: all about collaboration, building on learning from each other
    • J Keith Dunbar: the merging of individual knowledge and skill into a holistic body of knowledge in real or near-real time
    • Julian Summerhayes: not monologue but dialogue (Brian Solis)
    • Charlie Elise: learning by accident (I learned a lot at #trulondon and other events just by meeting others)
    • Andrew Watkins: this is an example.


    I suggested it’s the water cooler conversation, plus use of social media, and describe the (and my) use of blogging / microblogging, audio / video podcasting, web conferencing, social networking, social bookmarking, gaming and virtual worlds etc.

    It’s the mix of these two things to me – real and virtual, analogue and digital.  I liked the way Arie Moyal put together peer to peer coaching and wikis.  And Abi and Suraj Sodha are spot on – it’s not about tools – it’s all about behaviours and social interaction.  I also liked Kate Graham‘s summary of this bit: when talking social learning in your organisation, don’t sell social media – it’s not how people learn that matters, but if they learn.

    Re the tools, Julian suggested the additional use of Foursquare and Gowalla.  Umm.  I don’t use these myself* and while I understand their role in facilitating connection, am unsure how they’d be used for social learning.  May be one for me to study.

    Dhruv Devasher asked whether video podcast (as an example) is a one way conversation or a multiple voice dialogue.  Good question.  Podcasting is often seen as part of new vs social media.  Its new media because it’s part of this group of new, easy to use technologies that encourages participation and employee voice.  But it’s not really social media, as it is generally one-way.  You can comment, but only really using a different mode – writing vs video, which I think reduces the likelihood, and impact, of these.  But I’d still say it’s social (even if not social media), in the same way as I described web conferencing can be social.  If lot’s of people are using it, it results in a conversation, in social dialogue, even if you can’t track the threads of the conversation that easily.

    There were a couple of comments about wikisMichelle noted correctly that wikis only work if people join in – a point that applies to all social tools.  And Abi questioned my view that wiki’s aren’t very social.  I guess it depends on what we mean by this.  I agree that wikis are social vs new media, as they’re not just about the use of new, easy to use technology, they are fundamentally about people sharing and working together.  But they’re about collection of information, not connection between people.  That’s what I meant by my point.

    And I will moderate this.  Social connection still helps wiki usage too.  But the focus, on large wikis at least, is building a shared view and output about something.  I think the emotional and social context behind the information people are adding and the updates they are making is less important than in other (more) social tools.

    Nicola Strong asked when I think virtual worlds are a practical environment for social learning.  Yes I do, and increasingly so.  I’d also respond to Tony Bhambra‘s note that it’s not very easy to identify emotions in virtual worlds by noting that this is also changing – technologies are getting much better and displaying facial and physiological features which will help this considerably.  And there is already some research to suggest that some people at least can develop more meaningful relationships online than they do in real life.  It seems the cues we take from peoples’ faces and body languages are replaced with others from the virtual media.

    And in response to Kate, no, I don’t think chat rooms are passe – they still have an important role to play.

    Ishmael Burdeau noted that a lot can be done with mobile devices eg ipod, mobile.  Absolutely.  I meant to mention this but think it was one of the many points I had to drop.  As an example, Michelle  suggests she finds finding time to listen to podcasts is a problem for her.  The way I do it is by using itunes on my iphone.  Same for RSS (which Julian also notes is his best way of sharing – getting bigger every day).  A train journey, a tube journey, between meetings – I, and I think most of us, have so much down time, that RSS feeds and podcasts can usefully and entertainingly occupy – through the use of mobile devices.

    And I thought Martin Couzins made a good point – it has to be a mix and you learn what works best for different groups.  And I’d again agree with Abi – you need to offer a blend of social and non-social (non social media I think you mean?) approaches so that people have a choice.


    * I believe I have some valuable insights in social collaboration, learning etc – I don’t seek to pass myself off as an expert in social tools.


    I’m going to look at your comments to my other 3 questions in a later post.  Sorry – other (proper) work to do!



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    Tuesday 22 June 2010

    The Social Learning Zone (webinar)


       I so enjoyed that!

    Here is the archive: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/630787808.


    We didn’t quite expect over150 tweets (and another 80 Citrix Online questions), so sorry we weren’t able to react to as many of these as we expected!

    Here is part 1 of all the tweets:

    1. Abi Signorelliabisignorelli  RT @felmundo: The heart -and goal - of community is “collaborating people”, not collaboration tools http://bit.ly/cxUSkB#slz #ConnectingHR
    2. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      ie @gsiemens' social connectivism? RT @BillBoorman@charlie_elise learning starts at an unconference. Its about connections #trulondon #slz
    3. Charlie Elise Duffcharlie_elise 
      @BillBoorman Good points! It's been a learning curve ever since! :-) #SLZ
    4. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @charlie_elise I think the learning starts at an unconference. Its about connections rather than big learning points#truLondon #slz
    5. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @joningham i find twitter chats on the # like#blogchat, #jobhuntchat, #truChat (UK) and #TNLLive a great way to learn and connect #slz
    6. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @joningham good job on the webinar Jon. #slz
    7. Barry FurbyBarryFurby 
      Haven't seen that one .. RT @BillBoorman: For an internal social network look at Tribepad from @LisaScales #slz
    8. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      For an internal social network look at Tribepad from @LisaScales #slz
    9. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @joningham over 2000 resources indexed and reviewed by the staff in 4 months. Its all free and used daily #slz
    10. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @joningham We also maintain a learning area where anyone can tag reference to blogs, video, sites and other material.#slz
    11. Bill BoormanBillBoorman 
      @joningham on a simple level we have videod the whole on-boarding process. training by the staff for the staff #slz
    12. Charlie Elise Duffcharlie_elise 
      @joningham Looked great from here Jon, well done and thanks @trainingzone #slz
    13. Courtenay HRcourtenayhr 
      RT @joningham #ConnectingHR tweet-up link for all#slz participants in & around London:http://connectinghr.eventbrite.com - this Thurs!
    14. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      Here's the #connectinghr tweet-up group link for all#slz participants in and around London: connectinghr.eventbrite.com - this Thurs eve
    15. Niall Gavinniallgavinuk 
      #slz: anyone have any experience of using Lotus Quickr to facilitate collaborative learning?
    16. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      It does - through Yammer Share RT @MitshKInteresting. Take a look at integrating Yammer, I believe it integrates with SharePoint #slz
    17. jenniwhellerjenniwheller 
      RT @abisignorelli: #slz With more & more remote working & gen y, social learning is vital & orgs will nd 2 adapt whether they like it or not
    18. Martin Couzinsmartincouzins 
      Thanks to @joningham - I enjoyed the conversation and all the tweets #slz
    19. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      So many great tweets to #slz - can't really retweet or respond to them all - will blog at Strategic HCM and Training Zone shortly...
    20. Suraj Sodhasurajsodha 
      RT @abisignorelli: #slz Being social is not about tools - it's all about behaviours and human interaction >> totally agree with you :)
    21. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz thanks guys, enjoyed the session
    22. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      Sorry I ran out of time - not very social I know - but we will be following up your questions and tweets #slz
    23. Ishmael BurdeauIshmaelBurdeau 
      @joningham Good session, thanks! #slz
    24. Michelle KayeMitshK 
      #slz thanks Jon - has been very interesting
    25. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      Will be following up the #slz conversation at Training Zone: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/group/social-media-learning-0
    26. Digital-Economicsdiginomics 
      RT @joningham Social media / learning like marmite!#slz
    27. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz "use the media to learn about the media" great, concise summary
    28. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz @abisignorelli great point, i guess that raises an interesting discussion on resource allocation to programs by companies /...
    29. Ken MoirKenMoir 
      @dhruvdevasher facilitating and supporting the exchanges, maintaining the tools, capturing and codifying technical knowledge, too. #slz
    30. Ishmael BurdeauIshmaelBurdeau 
      Further links. #slz http://twitpic.com/1yyx2y
    31. Martin Couzinsmartincouzins 
      @abisignorelli i agree - it has to be a mix and you learn what works best for different groups #slz
    32. Courtenay HRcourtenayhr 
      RT @abisignorelli #slz Being social is not about tools - it's all about behaviours and human interaction #ConnectingHR
    33. Ken MoirKenMoir 
      @abisignorelli it all depends on how the tools are introduced, supported, maintained. #slz
    34. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz Role of L&D: codifying / collecting / disseminating pockets of shared knowledge?
    35. Callum Saunders callumsaunders 
      Amen: RT @abisignorelli #slz Being social is not about tools - it's all about behaviours and human interaction#ConnectingHR
    36. Alana InnessAlanaInness 
      Will we lose skills required for face2face interaction (e.g. negotiation, differences resolutions, etc) with more reliance on 2.0 tools #slz
    37. kategraham23kategraham23 
      Are chatrooms passe compare with newer social learning tools? #slz
    38. Michelle KayeMitshK 
      @dhruvdevasher #slz showing ppl that it's useful and easy to use should help with cynical thoughts
    39. Abi Signorelliabisignorelli 
      @dhruvdevasher I think it's important to have a blend of social and non social approaches so people have a choice#slz
    40. Julian Summerhayes0neLife 
      #slz - the medium is here to stay and will develop E=MC2
    41. Abi Signorelliabisignorelli 
      #slz Being social is not about tools - it's all about behaviours and human interaction
    42. Martin Couzinsmartincouzins 
      Like this quote from Dave Weinberger, which explains the 'why' of social learning: 'Knowledge isn't in our heads, it is between us' #slz
    43. Fitzroy Executivefitzroyexec 
      RT @abisignorelli #slz With more remote working AND gen y coming through, social learning is vital & orgs will nd 2 adapt#ConnectingHR
    44. Stopgapstopgap 
      RT @abisignorelli #slz With more remote working AND gen y coming through, social learning is vital & orgs will nd 2 adapt#ConnectingHR
    45. Callum Saunders callumsaunders 
      RT @abisignorelli #slz With more remote working AND gen y coming through, social learning is vital & orgs will nd 2 adapt #ConnectingHR
    46. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz how do you encourage employees to engage with social learning if they're cynical / skeptical of it?
    47. Michelle KayeMitshK 
      @abisignorelli #slz agree - it's going to be the std in the future.
    48. Martin Couzinsmartincouzins 
      @kenmoir you have to tailor the tools to the groups involved - they will tell you what works for them #slz
    49. Tony Bhambrabhambra 
      @joningham you make some great points Jon #slz
    50. Martin Couzinsmartincouzins 
      @joningham we use internal blogs, wikis and yammer plus face to face #slz
    51. Gautam GhoshGautamGhosh 
      @joningham also check the embedded slideshow in this post http://bit.ly/cAj1OA #slz
    52. Alana InnessAlanaInness 
      @MitshK we use but many find it tricky to use and format so have had difficulties embedding. Think it can be great searchable tool #slz
    53. Abi Signorelliabisignorelli 
      @kenmoir yes, I think so - better out than in no? #slz
    54. Jon Inghamjoningham 
      Thanks for everyones tweets on social learning - please keep them coming! I am reading them and trying to react even if not reading all #slz
    55. Dhruv Devasherdhruvdevasher 
      #slz relating to something that @kenmoirmentioned , should an org exert control to prevent 'loose cannons' and does that hurt the platform?
    56. Ken MoirKenMoir 
      Is free & open sharing a realistic expectation of real, emotional humans interacting in stressful/competitive environments? #slz
    57. Abi Signorelliabisignorelli 
      #slz How can we use it? Create social spaces in every office where ppl can socialise and learn using offline and online methods-& it's fun!
    58. Michelle KayeMitshK 
      @IshmaelBurdeau #slz both - all need to take part.

    Responses shortly…



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