During my recent presentation at WOLCE on embedding learning in the flow of work, I talked about how leading L&D departments are making use of Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) to support workplace learning in all its forms – both formal learning activities as well as helping work teams share their knowledge and experiences with one another as part of the daily workflow.
One of the points that was raised by an audience participant was that their organisation does have an ESN but it is not being used, and there is just tumbleweed blowing through an empty space. It’s a striking metaphor that I often hear people repeat.
But I think there is a very important message here. The ESN is likely not being used because either it has either been imposed upon employees who are unhappy to be forced to “be social” - I’ve written about that problem before – and/or more likely because it is not being supported by the organisation. Work teams clearly do not appreciate its value for their work, and individuals do not know why, how, and what to share and collaborate.
And who is the group that is best placed to support the adoption of an ESN in the organisation? In my opinion it is the L&D department. So whenever I hear someone from L&D say that their ESN is not working, I say
“Go in, clear out that tumbleweed and start to make it work. Because if you don’t, some other function in the organisation will. Here is the biggest opportunity L&D have ever had to have an impact on their business by helping people to learn from one another as they work, on a daily basis.”
This, however, does means accepting the fact that most learning in the workplace happens in the daily flow of work, as people share their knowledge and experiences (not in organised (e-)training) AND that recognising that this informal, social activity DOESN’T need to be managed and tracked and measured in the old L&D ways – but rather encouraged, enabled and supported. The only important thing that needs to be measured is performance change and improvement.
In fact trying to monitor and track all this activity only drives it away from enterprise systems. As it is, many individuals and teams have already become self-sufficient and are addressing their own learning and performance problems by using their own tools and services, in order to GET THINGS DONE quickly and easily. This is the Workplace Learning Revolution!
Charles Jennings and I were talking about this quite recently, and he offered an analogy from another revolution – the French Revolution. He reminded me how French women used to sit and knit while watching the guillotine executions, and added:
“Maybe it’s an appropriate metaphor. L&D knitting on the sidelines while the action goes in front of their eyes.”