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  • Make Informal Learning a Formal Part of Your Organization

    Research shows that approximately 80% of learning happens in an informal environment, like conversations with coworkers. Informal learning is more personal and based on natural interactions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide support to encourage this type of learning.

    Those impromptu conversations by the water cooler or over lunch in the cafeteria are great, but what about organizations with global offices? And even in relatively small companies, many employees don’t communicate regularly with people outside of their department. When organizations facilitate informal learning, they make it easy for employees to learn from the subject matter experts (SMEs), and not just the most knowledgeable person an employee knows. These SMEs want to share their knowledge and employees want to acquire the best information they can to successfully complete their projects, but they need the support of the organization to make it happen.Businessman drinking water from water cooler

    It’s not that learning should be a free-for-all where employees only learn what they want. The point is to consider that workers are already learning effectively by talking to coworkers and through individual research, so why not make that process easier with a solution that is geared toward informal learning?

    Social software, especially when combined with video technology and a structured learning management system, can support those natural, informal learning efforts. Instead of having those conversations around the water cooler, you can ask questions, get answers, and have discussions in an activities stream. This not only allows for the conversation to happen across the organization, but it is then documented and is searchable for future reference by you or your colleagues.

    You can share a presentation you’re building and learn from the feedback of your organization’s experts. Engage those SMEs by collaborating on a document together within the social software and keep those informal learning efforts as a part of your company’s knowledge repository. When you document these discussions, you’re turning them into learning assets that current and future employees can use to answer similar questions and build off of to encourage more informative conversations.

    Structured learning should maintain its place in the organization; as a formal training tool that guides employees through information the company finds crucial. However, this can’t account for everything employees will need to know. By supporting both formal and informal learning, organizations can better engage their employees and improve performance across the company.

    Socialtext Named in KMWorld’s Trend-Setting Products of 2013

    We’re excited to share that we were recently named as one of KMWorld Magazine’s “Trend-Setting Products of 2013.” According to Hugh McKellar, Editor-in-Chief at KMWorld, “The common thread running through all the products listed here is the unique value—and potential value—they offer the organization, its workers and their various constituencies.”

    We’re continually working to make it easier to collaborate, in order to increase productivity and employee engagement within organizations, so we appreciate this recognition from KMWorld.

    If you’d like to read more about this announcement, click here to read the full article.

    Introducing Socialtext 6.0

    We’re excited to announce the availability of Socialtext 6.0. Socialtext 6.0 enhances functionality for micro-blogging, social networking, content creation, expertise location and video capabilities, and simplifies users’ ability to share expertise, ideas and corporate data to foster collaboration and drive new business opportunities.

    This latest version of Socialtext includes the following enhancements:

    • New video technology
    • Enhanced Activity Stream features
    • Unified search functionality
    • Updated People and Groups directory
    • New header and redesigned Dashboard

    To read the full press release, click here and watch the video below to see Socialtext 6.0 in action.

    Integrating Social into Existing Business Processes

    Even if employees can overcome their fear of change, it’s unlikely that they’ll adopt new technology if it doesn’t fit into their normal work flow. If you’re introducing a social solution into your organization, you not only want to make sure it provides a great user experience to encourage and maintain adoption, but also make sure it integrates with your existing technology.Flow Chart

    Employees don’t want to add another standalone application into the mix. So if they have to use social collaboration software that isn’t integrated with the HR, ERP, or CRM applications they are familiar with, they’re not going to want to use it. Having these applications integrated simply makes it easier for employees to get work done. Think about the benefits of having events from Salesforce flow into a single activity stream, and then being able to have real-time conversations around that information. This brings knowledge from existing applications into one central location, making knowledge sharing and informal learning easy and beneficial.

    However, if your business processes have remained the same for years, you need to make sure your processes have caught up to the technology. Social has the potential to make a real impact on your business, but only if your leadership team thinks of a social solution as an integral part of the work flow, and not as an additional application that employees can use.

    Adding in new technology shouldn’t add more work or stress to your employees’ days. Before you begin implementation, think about how the new solution will help employees work more efficiently, how easily it will integrate with existing applications, and how it will enhance your business processes. When you fit the solution into your business processes, you make it that much easier for your employees to adopt the technology and for your organization to achieve real business value from the software.

    Ready, Set, Motivate: How to Engage Your Employees

    According to research by the Hay Group, engaged employees are up to 43% more productive than disengaged employees.  A Towers Watson study showed that highly engaged organizations improved 19.2% in operating income while low engagement organizations saw a 32.7% decrease. These numbers are significant but they aren’t useful if your organization doesn’t understand how to motivate and engage your employees.

    While different employees will have individual motivators, there are some factors that will engage the majority of workers. Employees have an inherent desire to be connected with their organization. They want to do worthwhile work and feel valuable to the business. Workers often feel this way during the first six months of employment, which is referred to as the honeymoon period. In fact, research by Gallup shows that employees are at their peak engagement levels during this initial six months. Organizations should use this time wisely to get to know new employees and help them connect with their new coworkers and the company’s mission and values. A simple way to do this is with a social solution. Managers can get to know their employees and new hires can start learning about the organization and meet coworkers from day one. By consistently using social software, these connections between coworkers and between employees and their managers can continue to grow along with engagement.

    Employees also crave rewards and recognition for their hard work. While financial incentives are nice, recognition from direct managers and from the leadership team are equivalent if not greater motivators, according to a McKinsey survey. With social, it’s easy for managers to recognize their employees and it also enables peer recognition. Share the story of how an employee supported your efforts or closed a major deal and let everyone acknowledge the success.

    Motivation is not one size fits all. Think about your organization’s culture and the type of motivators that your employees will respond to, given that culture. If you’re trying to create an open, transparent organization, use social to learn about your employees, build relationships, and give recognition for achievements to increase motivation and engagement in your company.

    How to Avoid the Information Overload Headache

    When employees go through training, especially when starting at a new role in a new company, they often suffer from a feeling of brain freeze, not unlike the sensation of eating a big bite of ice cream too quickly. Instead of consuming their frozen treats too fast, too much information is being thrown at them with not enough time to take it in. When this overload happens, employees lose sight of what they actually need to retain to succeed in their roles. How do you get employees successfully trained, without leaving them feeling overwhelmed?

    While it may seem efficient to cram employees into a classroom and try and teach them everything they need to know over a multi-day training session, it isn’t. It’s fast, but not effective. Employees may retain bits and pieces of information, but they’re more likely to be bored, frustrated, or just overwhelmed.Frustrated Businessman Sitting At Desk In Office Using Laptop

    Training sessions can be useful but they shouldn’t be the only resource. Allow employees to study ahead of time and review what they learn in the classroom by creating a resource repository that they can access anytime, anywhere.

    Classroom learning is great, because it functions as a forum for peer-peer discussions as well as one for conversations between the instructor and learners. In order to prevent information overload and help employees retain and understand the knowledge they’ve acquired, help them continue these conversations outside the classroom (or virtual classroom). A social solution can be this forum. Let employees ask questions and get answers specifically related to knowledge in the resource repository you set up. This creates a culture of learning within your organization, in which employees are learning how to be more effective and are continuously engaged during their regular work day.

    Don’t let your employees get overwhelmed with new information. With social, you can support and enhance their training by connecting them to the right knowledge and right people.

    Creating an Open, Transparent Organization through Social

    It’s not easy for executives to connect with employees, especially in larger organizations. It’s difficult to be in touch with employees’ thoughts, wants, and needs and employees may not share this information because they feel constrained by organizational hierarchies.  Employees want to be involved in company decisions but may not feel comfortable expressing their opinions. When major company decisions and changes are relayed by out of the blue emails, this broadens the divide between the leadership team and other employees.Social Media Key

    Not only can social break down the walls between departments, but a social solution can help break down the hierarchies too. Turning one-way communication into meaningful discussions between executives and employees isn’t a quick change. These conversations should occur on a regular basis so when a major business decision or change arises, there is already a strong foundation of honesty and transparency across the organization. It can be hard to build those relationships, especially in bigger companies and ones spread across the globe.

    Social software allows you to build relationships and transparency easily and naturally. Instead of just asking questions to your close colleagues, send out a signal and let other employees share their knowledge. You can also share what you’re working on, allow employees to do the same, and even offer feedback to one another. You not only get to learn more about your employees, but allow them to connect with you and show what they know, which lets them recognize how valuable they are to the organization.

    Over time, these interactions won’t be something you have to remind yourself to do; they’ll become a part of how you connect to your workforce and get work done.

    Don’t Get Stuck, Get Social

    Getting stuck in your own world, or in this case, your department, happens all too often. You focus on your own department’s tasks and projects, and forget about the bigger picture of what’s happening inside the whole company. This becomes problematic when a project requires a cross-functional team, but can also hinder the company’s innovation.

    The departments you rely on to get work done might be right by your side, or they could be across the country in a separate office. It’s not hard to see how these silos are created; you get wrapped up in your own work and forget about how important transparency and collaboration are within an organization. Once you recognize these silos and decide to break them down, you can use social to remove them.Collab across dept

    A social solution brings experts from different departments together, so they can work together to brainstorm, solve challenges, and complete projects successfully. You can start this process by launching projects within the social workspaces. Let’s say you’re working on a document. You have a rough draft, but could use some different perspectives and expertise from other departments. Post the rough draft and then signal to specific groups or all team members to give feedback and suggestions. Think of the workspace as a digital whiteboard; together, you work in real-time to brainstorm ideas, share feedback, and revise the document. This gives you access to the expertise and advice you might otherwise have missed. You can complete the project faster, since you don’t have to wait for individuals to sift through their inboxes to find and respond to the right email with the right attachment.

    If you’re not working on a long-term project, but rather, have an idea that could use some quick feedback and opinions, let your coworkers know. Send out a signal with your idea or questions, and watch the conversation develop as the subject matter experts contribute their thoughts. Subject matter experts want to share their knowledge with coworkers, so give them that opportunity by bringing them into the conversation.

    In order to stay ahead of the curve, companies need to collaborate and work together to brainstorm new ideas and drive innovation. Working across offices and departments makes collaboration more difficult, but with social, these brainstorming sessions can happen easily and in real-time. You might not be able to gather your colleagues around a physical whiteboard to hold these collaboration sessions, but social gives you the digital alternative so you can still get the help you need to get work done.

    Stop Talking at Your Employees and Start Creating Discussions

    Dear Employees,

    We’ve decided to switch to a new insurance carrier. Effective immediately, our coverage is through the CS Association. Please read the attached PDF document to learn more about this change.

    Jane Smith, VP Human Resources

    This is the classic example of one-way communication that happens in many companies. Out of the blue, your employees receive an email announcing a change, like a new insurance carrier or a new technology implementation, and that’s it. There’s no chance to ask questions, no way to easily discuss how to best handle the situation. The message is loud and clear: this is happening, deal with it.Dictionary Series - Marketing: communication

    While some policies and changes are not up for debate, they can still be up for discussion. Your employees will be more responsive to any updates if they understand what’s going to be different and why. This is the advantage two-way communication has over one-way communication: it creates a conversation and leads to better understanding. If you want employees to adapt to new policies, give them the chance to participate in making the change.

    With employees spread across offices, starting a discussion around a change isn’t as easy as just holding a meeting. Social can help make the switch from one-way communication to actual conversations. Announcements can be signaled in the activity stream where people can then ask questions, offer comments, and receive answers. You still control the way the message is distributed but employees can take an active interest in the announcement, and not just quickly delete it from their inbox.

    If you really want to engage employees, give them the chance to participate in the change process. If you’re implementing a new policy, use social to create a document in a workspace, and let employees share their viewpoints and contribute to formalizing the policy. You’ll receive valuable input, new ideas, and your employees will be more active in making the change successful. You’re not relinquishing control; you’re just creating more transparency and opening the door to feedback. The decision is yours, you are just letting your employees fill in some of the details.

    Instead of making announcements, start discussions with your employees. You’ll have a better understanding of their viewpoints and they’ll appreciate you offering transparency into the organization.

    Goodbye Boring Orientation, Hello Social Onboarding

    Think back to your first few weeks on the job. What were your challenges? Did you find it difficult to define the company culture?

    Companies typically onboard in one of two ways: either they have a very formalized, rigid structure or it’s the exact opposite with no real process at all. When there is no formal onboarding program, new employees must find the information and resources they need on their own. They have little support to transition into their new roles which leaves them feeling lost, increasing the time it takes to reach productivity. Not to mention, you don’t want your employees to feel alone and unsure of their roles, or those new hires might start looking for new jobs. You don’t want a new employee having second thoughts after the first week, especially when it could have easily been prevented with better onboarding.Socialonboardingsmallerimg

    The formal onboarding process provides a lot of policy, but not a lot of job specific knowledge. You’ve probably been through this type of onboarding before: you sit through orientation sessions with dozens of other new hires, try not to fall asleep during the lengthy PowerPoint presentations, and worst of all, any relevant information is lost because the sessions aren’t documented. The free lunch you get is nice, but it really won’t help you understand the company or your role better.

    Onboarding should be much more than just orientation. The goal is to introduce new employees to the company, culture, and their specific jobs so they can start contributing as soon as possible. A great way to onboard new employees is with social. Research shows that 80% of learning happens in an unstructured environment, like conversations with coworkers. If you want your employees to learn about their roles, the company, and the organization’s culture, who better to learn from than their new colleagues? Using social makes this learning possible and makes onboarding a natural and simple process.

    A good onboarding process does more than just welcome employees. Research by the Aberdeen Group shows that businesses with a standard onboarding practice had 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% greater retention of new employees. Not only is employee retention important for company culture, but a study by the Center for American Progress shows that it saves companies thousands of dollars. On average, for an employee earning under $50,000 a year, the cost of finding a replacement is about 20% of that employee’s salary, and that percentage increases for more senior level hires. Now, those are just the results for having a standard onboarding practice…imagine what the results would be for a great onboarding process. Social is a smart way to facilitate onboarding and save money for your business.

    From the first day on the job, new employees can use social to get to know their coworkers and the company culture, find answers to questions, and access necessary resources. Their onboarding tasks can be automated and streamlined so they don’t feel overwhelmed by paperwork. New employees easily become actively involved in the organization and understand company specific business processes. These social features give new employees the boost needed to achieve faster time to productivity and increase the likelihood of retention.

    Social onboarding is a win-win situation for companies and employees. New hires feel instantly connected to their colleagues and organization and have easy access to important documents. In return, businesses have more productive workers who are likely to stay with the company for a long time. So lose your traditional thoughts about onboarding and look for a social solution.

    If you’d like to learn more about how a social solution can improve onboarding, contact one of our experts.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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