Enterprise Community Management: “joining up” learning and working

For some time now I’ve sensed a split in the learning profession in terms of recognising the value and importance of self-managed learning as it takes place in the flow of daily work.

There are some who think that unless they have been responsible for an individual’s learning (i.e. they have designed, delivered, tracked and managed the whole process), then it is of little relevance or consequence to the L&D department, and view self-organised team learning as a “work” activity, and hence the sole responsibility of line managers.

Others, on the other hand, do recognise the importance of self-managed learning, but have difficulty in finding a way to support it more visibly. This is often due to the fact that they need to provide quantifiable success metrics for their own activities, and find it hard to isolate the results of  their “learning support” activities from overall team or business performance improvements. But the technology might well be handing them a solution – as well as giving them the opportunity to “join up” learning and working for the first time.

More and more organisations are beginning to adopt enterprise social networking technologies (like Yammer) more formally as business tools, so there is a growing need for a dedicated resource to manage and support this activity –  not technically but in human terms.

This emerging practice is known as Enterprise Community Management (ECM), and is much wider than just supporting one small team or community of practice within an organisation, but is about having responsibility for building and sustaining a community across the whole of the organisation. In fact as ECM can include a significant range of responsibilities, in a large organisation it undoubtedly needs to be undertaken by a number of people.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 08.14.02ECM activities are likely to include

  • integrating all social and collaborative initiatives into a common platform
  • planning the new community’s strategic approach
  • promoting and supporting its use within training (both online and face-to-face, but particularly within induction/onboarding)
  • helping to support its use for team knowledge- and resource-sharing
  • supporting individuals as they build and maintain communities of practice and other interest groups
  • developing an ongoing programme of both face-to-face and online activities and events – to encourage employee engagement on an ongoing basis
  • helping to model social and collaborative working and learning behaviours as a major part of helping workers use the technology
  • building the new personal and social skills required for productive collaboration in the organisation
  • measuring the success of community in terms of business performance (not just in terms of social activity)

Whoever takes on these ECM responsibilities is going to have a significant influence and impact on the business. But more than this, as face-to-face training goes out of fashion and e-learning is outsourced (and hence the opportunities for “managing learning” diminish), this might be a way for a L&D department not only to survive, but to thrive in the future.

If you want to find out more about Enterprise Community Management, I’m going to be running an online workshop on the topic at the Social Learning Centre from 1-30 April. You can find out how to sign up for the workshop here.

16 thoughts on “Enterprise Community Management: “joining up” learning and working

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  5. SeeBeldner

    The intersection of ECM (or Internal Community Management) and the L&D world is a great topic – thanks for your ongoing posts! The challenge is that L&D professionals have largely spent their careers creating and implementing knowledge objects – ILT, manuals, eLearning, job aids. ECMs create some content, but largely focus on empowering community members to do it themselves.

    And so with ESNs, the focus shifts to knowledge actions – conversations, interactions, participation. We have always tried to include knowledge actions in training in the form of activities, but we too often fall short. ESNs give us the opportunity to focus on the actions that we know are central to learning, and to stop tediously structuring information in the form of manuals and training guides.

    You will still spend some time on materials, but you should think critically as to which materials truly are needed. Can’t live without step action tables? Crowdsource them. Can’t live without FAQ’s? Crowdsource them. Jobaids? Same solution. Think about how you can help individuals to externalize their knowledge and create recorded organizational knowledge.

    1. Jane Hart

      You are spot on! And are repeating the message I have been sending out in all my posts here. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    2. Ralph

      I agree with your comments too. What i think is also crucial, is that not only ”L&D folks ” need to embrace ESN based work… the support folks we are enabling ”community members for” need to sponsor that change in mindset as well… I call it, like many others do , ”sponsorship”.

      It’s when they also participate in the learning/working cycle and coach the same way L&D folks do.. speak the same ”learning” language, ”measure” the same things … basically, have the same leadership philosophy.. a 2.0 LP that is…

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  8. Fred Sheahan

    I agree, ECM is a critical extension of “learning” in an organization. It can help the org move beyond traditional event-based, awareness-building training. By enabling strategies like Jarche’s Social Knowledge Management and loose couplings of connections/roles/work within an evolving network, organizations are better equipped to realize leadership and marketplace demands for knowledge worker adaptability and innovation.

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