LMS Guide: Communities of Practice

Collaborative informal learning can be called all sorts of names. Community of practice is one term that has been around for a long time and many people know generally what a community of practice is and what it is for.  When we install our Percepium LMS for a client the ‘out of the box’ name for the module is ‘Expert Area.’ This can of course be changed but we thought this name was a good alternative that simplified the concept a bit.                                                     Expert Areas
We designed the Expert Area to be fully integrated with all of the learning and development features in the LMS environment. This ensures that the community of people engaging with an Expert Area may find social collaboration as well as published learning courses, articles and development pathways.
There is really nothing you cannot do with Expert Areas. The subject matter experts may publish to the LMS and offer both elective and mandatory learning activities. The learning activities may be instructor led or online.
When the Expert Areas module is used across an extended enterprise it becomes a powerful tool to engage prospects, customers, resellers and partners with subject matter experts in your business. The usefulness of this scenario is enormous and here are some ways we have implemented this for our clients:
  • Support a culture of excellence by identifying and encouraging people to connect and interact with subject matter experts.
  • Training resellers and retailers in new products and services.
  • Delivering sales training to people who sell your products and services.
  • Encourage prospective clients to engage with subject matter experts and their published collateral to engage in educational marketing and begin the process of relationship development.
  • Establish communities of practice that include both internal and external experts. This has had a profound impact on innovation and speed to market for one of  our clients in particular.
  • Prevent ‘brain drain’ when people leave your organisation for any reason. The Expert Areas encourage the capture of best practices and knowledge.
One of our recent clients have adapted the Expert Area module to support an enterprise wide coaching program. Managers were provided training in conducting and managing coaching and mentoring skills using blended learning delivery. The Expert Areas Module was rebranded to Coaching Portal and users now have access to their coaches and mentors in the learning environment.
We dovetailed this with the Development Plans module and now the coaches have line of sight to both the learning activities of the people they are coaching as well as being able to add new development activities as the coaching process advances.
As we upgrade our existing clients and add new clients to our community, we will learn more innovative ways to use this module in organisations. Expert Areas is an example of how uniquely designed DOTS Percepium LMS is to provide maximum configurability without software bloat.
If you would like to learn more about Communities of Practice, Expert Areas and our latest third generation Learning Management System, please get in touch.

5 Tactics to Support Your Employee Engagement Strategy [Part Two]

Welcome Aboard.  Sink or Swim With On-boarding.

Imagine you are marooned on an island inhabited by a tribe of friendly people but culturally vastly different to what you are used to.  All of the norms of this tribe are not threatening but far outside your patterns of behaviours.  You can imagine how difficult and intimidating this would be.  Why do you think it is any different when people join organisations as new hires?

The experience a new recruit has joining a new organisation has an enormous impact on how soon a person ramps up to effectiveness and how quickly they become engaged with the organisation and its culture.  You can refer to the previous blog for a great definition of employee engagement.

If you have ever experienced a bad hire and either had to take action to remove a new hire or they leave quickly on their own accord, the impact goes way beyond the cost, pain and frustration of having to start a recruitment process again or settle for your second or third choice.  The ripple impacts of a bad hire hit your culture widely and deeply. You can reduce or eliminate these risks by developing a solid on-boarding strategy.

Here are some ideas that I have seen work well in some of my clients’ organisations. Some of these ideas work better for some organisations and less so for others depending upon a number of factors such as industry, location, resources and culture.  You should also consider the type of position you are inducting.

You may have a different style of on-boarding processes in your sales team as opposed to your finance team.  These differences take into account the type of individual[s] you are inducting and the culture of the team they are joining.

Here are some ideas:

  • Start the induction early using your LMS or other web based platform. Start the process before they arrive for day one by offering some online videos, courses and information they can review in their own time.  Make this fun, interesting and collaborative.
  • Include a social gathering either prior to day one or shortly after.  You can make it a dinner with their new manager or a small gathering of their manager and team members.
  • Make the induction a ‘high touch’ experience.  I am always surprised how often a new hire is sitting alone in their office or workstation going through induction.  This is sending all the wrong messages to the new hire.  Include different people to interact, support and coach the new person.  Do this even if you are inducting a number of people at once and use workshops to deliver induction training.
  • Include some online learning and collaboration to deliver a ‘blended’ approach.  You do not need to use costly learning content.  You can use some home-grown videos, presentations and links to other resources.
  • Add sense of achievement when a person completes their induction.  You can have a small team social gathering over coffee, deliver a certificate of completion or another gift or token signifying the completion of the induction.  Using a certificate or token item makes a great cultural ‘tradition’ and you can award them retro-actively if you want to.
  • Include some interface between the inductee[s] and senior management.  Choose the highest senior level leader you can but choose wisely.  Do not make the mistake of choosing a senior leader who does not have the commitment to successful inductions and culture required or is not reliable to stick to appointments.  This tactic can backfire if you choose a leader who considers this a nuisance and cancels appointments or lacks the EQ to conduct a meeting with new hires effectively.
  • After the induction process is completed include a meeting schedule for a month or two after.  I suggest a coffee or informal meeting of about 10 to 15 minutes duration and conducted by human resources or another manager; not their direct manager.  The purpose of these meetings are to get some feedback, check for any barriers to work objectives and be alert for some innovation.  It is surprising how a newly hired person will identify areas for business improvement and innovation.  They are not yet fully immersed in the role and the ‘third party’ perspective is priceless.

A great induction process takes work and attention.  The induction process needs to designed and documented.  The process needs to be aligned with the organisation’s strategy and supported at all levels including specifically the CEO and other ‘c’ level executives.

If you are considering developing a new induction strategy or re-developing an existing one, we can have a discussion and share some ideas.  You can keep your focus on your objectives and we can help you develop, implement and execute an effective on-boarding/induction strategy.

L & D Department or Catalyst for Change

In the spirit of the New Year and all the hoped for changes we have planned in our personal and working lives I thought about how some of our clients might be thinking of transforming their professional endeavours to a whole new level.

If 2013 went by quickly for you then there is little chance 2014 will be any different.  We are living and working in environments that are changing so quickly that often we may not recognise change until it has already occurred.  Organisations are facing challenges dealing with change both within their workforce and outside in the macro environment in which they compete.

I had a discussion with a CEO of a state based Association.  He was lamenting the fall-off in memberships and the struggles they are having finding new ones.  He indicated they are certainly not alone in facing these challenges.  When you begin to analyse the issue you can see some of the reasons they are facing this predicament.

  • The demographics of their membership are changing fast.  The older members are retiring and the younger ones have not ‘grown up’ with a concept of what associations are or what they do.   Similarly in organisations there may not be the loyalty or sense of deep commitment to an organisation ‘out of the box’ with younger workers.
  • The associations are competing against so many other choices for spending time.  It is harder and harder to get a person to come to a face to face sit down meeting after a hard day of work.  Do workers want to take out a half or a full day to sit in a room for training?  If the training is aligned with a personal interest or identified real benefit yes, if it is intangible or unidentified then no.
  • People still want learning and development but they want it delivered more flexibly and not necessarily involving travel away from home.  Most associations offer learning and development as a core service to their members but when was the last time they asked the members what they wanted?  What they are interested in?  Are there some courses of interest that have nothing to do with the association but are still of interest?  The same goes in any organisation.  The courses that fit in the budget are those that are typically aligned with a strategy or initiative or compliance requirement.  Few companies consider other dimensions of their employees’ lives when considering interesting content to offer.

There are a few of these issues that could have at least some part of a resolution using technology.

What does this have to do with Learning and Development?  Everything. The same challenges confronting my friend in his association faces business leaders across the board.  How do you engage effectively with other people in a process of learning, development, collaboration and performance improvement?  I believe this challenge is one that the Learning and Development Professional is ideally suited to address with the right resources.

Whether it is an association seeking members or an organisation seeking to attract and retain great people, these are some ideas I have about transforming L & D from a department to a catalyst for change.

It is one thing to have an LMS, it is altogether another to use the LMS platform to enable personal learning journeys.  You need not cease the compliance management but you can add so much more to enable people to chart their own course to development.   I believe feedback using surveys and personal assessment tools enable greater insight into how people are working together and making decisions.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms can be so powerful to communication vision, ideas and best practices.  Some of the systems I have seen are obviously imbued with fear as they have less than optimum levels of participation and even less honesty.  There is plenty of ‘vanilla communication’ but nothing approaching open and frank sharing of ideas and concerns regardless of title and status.

The catalyst for change can include inviting other persons to contribute and participate from outside your organisation.  The best examples I have seen of this include a focused approach that invites persons who have expertise or experience in topics of interest.  Of course if your collaboration/communication system is healthy you can measure interest in certain topics.

There are business people, entrepreneurs, academics, physical and mental health professionals, and so many others that are out there right now contributing in the ‘social media universe.’  You can provide some amazing learning and networking opportunities for your people by inviting thought leaders into your organisation.   I have seen this work with short webinars, PowerPoint presentations converted to e-learning content,  informal and formal coaching and engaging via the normal platforms such as Google + and LinkedIn.

These are just some ideas I felt I had to write down after conversing with my friend.  I meet so many learning and development professionals who demonstrate thought leadership, proactivity and innovation all the time.  It is the wise CEO and executive team who encourage and promote learning as both a means of attaining competitive advantage and encouraging people to become the best they can be.

6 Ways Your LMS Supports Innovation

The LMS is not often thought of as a platform directly supporting or driving innovation but it should be.   There may be differences in how your LMS may support innovation based on what features it has, however I will offer some generic ideas that should be applicable to most LMS software.

  • Set up a course catalog specifically for innovation content.   There is plenty of off-the-shelf courseware on innovation but I encourage you to consider creating some ‘home-grown’ modules that align with your business specifically.
  • Create a competency framework for innovation.  You may wish to start with specific user populations but this framework can be extended throughout your organisation.  Remember you may have different tiers to the competencies to ensure they are relevant to the person’s position and strategy horizon.
  • Include the innovation competency framework[s] in the performance management process.  When your competency frameworks are integrated with courseware and development planning this becomes a powerful tool to encourage innovation in your culture.
  • Set up groups of users that are ‘outside’ the normal organisational structure.  This works very well to encourage communities of practice and thought leaders.   Ideally the groups will have content authoring permissions as well as other collaborative tools such as a wiki, discussion forum and blog.  These can be external tools accessible via links in the LMS interface.
  • If you have established some innovation processes using other platforms that capture ideas and include polling and commentary, link the platform to the LMS.  I have seen specific software as well as more common tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and Citrix Podio. Most of these are very easy to link to and if you add access via the LMS interface you will have a learning support system operating in real time.
  • Select some reports to measure innovation focused learning and collaboration in your LMS.  You should measure the enrolments in your innovation courses, assessment results [if you use assessments], identify users with high and low participation, competency gap analysis based on the innovation frameworks, and others depending upon your system and your innovation objectives.

Innovation occurs in all parts of an organisation and all tiers of positions and job titles.  When you introduce learning support for innovation you will go a long way toward breaking through the misconception that innovation is some ‘activity’ undertaken only by senior positions or positions focused on product development, marketing and so forth.

Please get in touch if you would like some more information on innovation and learning. I am also interested in hearing from persons who have integrated an LMS or other platform to support innovation.

The Changing Face of Learning

On March 21 we are offering our clients an opportunity to meet a true innovator in the world of learning.  Cindy Pascale is the Founder and Vice President of Vado and she will be presenting on Development Best Practices.  Vado are innovators in creating developmental content that is linked to competency frameworks.

In this research rich session, participants will learn the development best practices that will lead to the maximum return on investment for the organization’s development dollar. Specific outcomes are:

1. The difference between training and development

2. What is scrap learning?

3. How do people best develop new skills and capabilities?

4. What are learners expecting in their development programs?

5. How do you make sure the development will lead to organisation success?

If you are a DOTS client, there are still a few places left.  if you are not a client but are interested in learning more about Vadoand how it can boost your organisation’s performance, you are encouraged to contact us.  We can show you how we help our clients build more effective organisations.