Collaboration and community skills are the new workplace skills

OK, these skills are not actually “new” –  they’ve always been present – but perhaps they have not always been as visible as they should have been, as Oscar Berg explains in The collaboration pyramid (or iceberg). But, as businesses transform into social businesses, the social workplace is going to become more and more reliant on these skills.

I’ve been working with a number of organisations recently as they’ve been making the move “into social”, and one thing was clear, that “helping” their people with this didn’t require old-school training.  Of course, helping them how to use the technology could be partly approached in this way – but even that wasn’t quite the same. And Maria Ogneva agrees in her blog post, This is not your parents’ software training, when she talks about how organisations should approach Yammer “training”.

But as for the new social and collaboration skills that workers require, well you simply can’t train people to be social! What was required was getting down and dirty and helping people understand what it actually meant to work collaboratively in the new social workplace, and the value that this would bring to them.  My Internet Time Alliance colleague, Harold Jarche,  refers to this as modelling, not shaping.

It also involved helping teams understand what it actually meant to set up and sustain a project group or community of practice; and again it wasn’t simply about using the technology, but included offering tips and techniques to encourage and value participation of the members, as well as keep the group or community alive. In other words, when supporting groups with this, it was not about telling them how to do it, but showing them how to do it – modelling, not shaping.

Yesterday, I read an article that offered some lessons for a big rollout of social and collaborative tools for Virgin Media, and their experience was the same.

“One size doesn’t fit all “We couldn’t just deliver a simple technical training course and people would naturally adopt the technology all at the same rate. We had to create a unique and individual set of adoption processes that included everything from one-to-one training to self-help with videos through how-to communities. One of the big successes during the pilot, which I was hoping for but surprised me nonetheless, was the amount of people who started to self-help and help others.”

Helping people to work collaboratively and become a valued member of a community takes skill; and just like the use of social media it’s not something you talk about –  it’s something you have to do yourself.  Are you ready to help “model” these new behaviours in your organisation?