How collaborative learning can change your business for the better

Collaborative learning is nothing new. We all know that people spend time looking for, reading and watching content to help them do their work. In most cases, this informal learning is in reaction to an immediate need and the source of the information is an online search.

Imagine if all the informal learning achieved in this way was captured and available to everybody in your business. If one person needs to fill a gap in skill or knowledge to perform their work, it is likely others in your business share the need.

Is the knowledge already held by people in your business available to others? Does your business have a collective knowledge base that is aligned with the work your business performs? Collective, accessible knowledge and information that is created, curated and shared is one of the powerful contributors to engagement and culture in a business. Collaborative learning is also an effective means of providing recognition to people that contribute to the collective knowledge.

Our clients are using training and information created by people in their business to deliver effective onboarding to people joining the business. This has standardised the onboarding  experience for every person. Using collaborative learning also assists people to identify subject matter experts in the business and get a feel for the work other people perform in the business.

Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Ideally every person in your business has some knowledge of your strategy and how their work contributes to achieving it. If not, this is where I would suggest you start. I would suggest taking it a step or two further by breaking your strategy into supporting goals and team objectives. If your business is small and does not have teams, consider assigning objectives to functional areas of responsibility in the business and this could be one I recommend the strategy, goals and objectives are documented and communicated regularly.
  • Use the strategy framework to open up a clear line of sight between the work they perform every day in the business to what needs to be completed to achieve the strategy.
  • This process will help guide the types and content of learning, information and ideas developed by everyone to be directly relevant to both the strategy and the work performed everyday. This is a great place to start and it will get collaborative learning embedded in your organisation.
  • Once you have collaborative learning embedded in your business and aligned with strategy, you can take it much further. For example, you may choose to use collaborative learning in your marketing, sales, customer retention, product development and any other aspect of your business.
  • Implementing a cogent collaborative strategy in your business will have a positive impact on the development of intellectual property that will add significant value to your business.

Is your business exploring ways to improve the culture? Boost engagement? Retain your best people? These factors and more will be developed and sustained with a planned collaborative learning strategy and implementation.

If you are interested in learning more about collaborative learning and ideas about how to implement collaborative learning in your business, you are welcome to contact me directly via LinkedIn. You can also request a demo from this page.

Check out our WorkPlan website to learn more about our work in collaborative learning and engagement.

 

Strategy without learning is flawed

Leaders of organisations around the world understand the strategic need to build capabilities in their organisations to remain competitive. There are many methods used to build capabilities and on-the-job training remains very common. Strategy that is designed without learning is seriously flawed.

Online learning is a key part of any strategy to build capability. In my experience, many organisations start out with a compliance focus for online learning. When moving to include other purposes for online learning, e.g. leadership development, it is critical that a framework is developed to support the learners and measurement of outcomes.

How do you create a learning strategy that will help drive performance and be fully aligned with your strategic objectives?

  • Build your learning plans based on customer feedback and adapting to changes in expectations that customers have in dealing with your organisation and your competitors.
  • Assess how much of your learning and development resources are allocated to frontline employees. Performance increases in your frontline employees are often easier to measure and possibly faster to achieve.
  • When you develop learning plans, align the curricula to strategic objectives. A capability gap analysis is going to provide more accuracy to aligning learning with strategic objectives. I like to see capability gap analyses performed as part of a strategic planning project.
  • Learning and development needs to be predictive. Your strategy is designed to keep your organisation competitive. I recommend you drill down from macro-environmental changes in your market all the way down to succession and recruitment needs within a time horizon that makes sense for your business.

To support your learning strategy and sustain performance improvements, I suggest the following:

  • Consider incentivising self-directed learning. There are so many effective ways to do this.
  • Standardise learning processes as much as you can to assist in measurement. You may choose different target populations for standardisation as opposed to standardising across the organisation.
  • Some of the most effective capability building strategies include directly linking learning to the performance management process.
  • I encourage my clients to build learning more deeply into the fabric of a culture by adding learning engagement to the key objectives for managers. I have seen excellent results when managers include learning in their weekly and/or monthly team and individual meetings or catch ups. The benefits achieved include higher levels of learning engagement and a feedback loop on learning experiences and future needs.
  • Encourage blended approaches to learning by identifying subject matter experts in your organisation. You might consider adding communities of practice or a coaching/mentoring program to leverage knowledge in support of learning activities.

If you would like to discuss these ideas or want to explore implementing a new learning strategy in your organisation, you are welcome to get in touch with me via the contact details on this site.

High Performance Culture and Alignment

According to an excellent whitepaper by Aon Hewitt, (Getting Real About Creating a High Performance Culture, 2016),” ….46% of organisations identified defining or aligning culture as a key priority.”

Culture is a key competitive advantage. Change is occurring too rapidly to forecast accurately. The workforce is facing challenges in their personal lives that may lead to increased fear and uncertainty about the future. The separation between personal and work life has always been a myth. Now that we have non-stop news and information overload assaulting us from every device we have, it is impossible to imagine the workplace as a quarantine. It is a tough time to define, build and sustain a high performance culture.

In some experiences I have had recently, organisations have had leadership adopt a ‘batten down the hatches’ philosophy. The indicators visible to an external consultant working with such an organisation include poor strategic communication, confusion about accepted behavioural norms and fear. The fear is not always easily identified. I always find it in companies that lack meeting rhythm between managers and employees. I see it where there is little ‘ground level’ innovation going on to improve effectiveness and productivity. There are other ways fear is identified.

How does a leader deal with culture in this geo-political economic era? I suggest it is a return to some very basics of interpersonal relationship skills. It would be great if it was not a ‘return’ as opposed to a refocusing. Most people involved in an interpersonal relationship and particularly an intimate one, would identify communication as the primary contributor to the health of the relationship.

It is no different in an organisational culture. However, many leaders of organisations have behavioural styles that deliver communication in short direct bursts as opposed to a story or interactive dialogue. Communication is often delegated and diluted. People see through this and it only leads to greater fear, uncertainty and disengagement.

I believe vision is critical. Vision is critical to individuals, couples, families, organisations, communities and all the way up to nation states. Without a vision it is impossible to build a compelling strategy and even more impossible to engage people to execute the work needed to achieve strategic objectives. 

Without a vision, your mission will be detached and unaligned to anything meaningful to your people. Lack of meaning equals lack of engagement. Lack of engagement kills a high performance culture.

These are only two big picture contributors to a sustainable high-performance culture. Communication and vision. There are others. I offer below two of the most impactful high- level initiatives that will contribute to changing a toxic or poor performance culture to a high performance culture.

·        Learning and development is part of the culture and not dependent upon people asking permission or waiting for approval. Senior leadership support learning and allocate resources to learning opportunities openly. Learning is linked to performance management processes. Learning is used to support innovation and collaborative, social knowledge sharing.

·        Senior leadership is visible and accessible. There are some huge companies I have worked with that have leaders who leverage technology to remain accessible. When senior leadership communicates, they do so openly and transparently. Senior leadership repeats vital messages to ensure there is retention. The senior leadership never cease to show the alignment of strategy to the work that people are doing throughout the organisation.

Have you thought about personal branding?

Companies spend enormous resources to brand products and services to attract customers. As business owners, managers and employees we also need to brand ourselves to support our ongoing success. When you have developed an effective, compelling personal brand, you are helping others in and outside your company get to know your value and expertise. You are taking a major step that will strengthen your career and uncover new opportunities in work and other areas of your life.

Personal branding is describing who you are. When you are asked about what you do and what you have achieved, your reply is branding. Now we are going to spend some time considering how we respond to these questions to create a more impressive message delivered with confidence and spontaneity. Once your branding message is developed you can use it in presentations, interviews, social gatherings and network events. You never know who you will meet at any time so being prepared is worth the small effort to get your branding right.

We recommend you create two branding messages. The first one describes the work you do and the second one highlights your accomplishments and expertise. In this exercise, do not be tempted to accept the first messages that come to mind. Your goal is having refined and accurate responses to ensure they are understood and have impact.

Branding message 1:  This is what I do. Create a statement that describes your job, the type of work you do and the results you deliver. Here are a few tips:

  • describe what you achieve in your job.
  • how do you contribute to your business, team or company on a daily basis. You may use another timeframe if more appropriate.
  • try not to use your job title. Job titles may be specific to an organisation and not accurately reflect your real brand.

Branding message 2: This is what I have achieved. This message describes your projects, accomplishments and areas of speciality or expertise. Here are some tips:

  • consider your entire work career when assessing your major accomplishments.
  • look at your work in the perspective of projects. This can help define your achievements.
  • do not discount any areas of expertise or speciality. People often discount the expertise they have developed and do not fall into this trap.

Your message needs to have some attributes to make it effective and memorable. Here are some quick pointers to help you out:

  • Be descriptive to avoid being bland. Try to paint a picture of what you do and what you have achieved. You can use locations, work environments, descriptions of clients or colleagues etc.
  • Make sure your message will be understood by people outside your profession or industry.
  • Use only enough words to achieve a great message and no more. Each message should take no longer than 30 seconds to deliver. Therefore both messages will take 60 seconds maximum to delier dn in a conversation that can seem like a long time. In a presentation, a 60 second bio is not uncommon.
  • You must commit the time to make your messages interesting and if possible exciting. It may be easier to make your projects and accomplishments more exciting than your job. Avoid being too timid with your branding messages; they alway sound more ‘out there’ when you say them to yourself than they will when spoken to others.
  • Focus on results. What happens when you work during the day? What impacts are you having? Are people getting trained? Are sales increasing? Is production more efficient?  You can choose one to three, after that is becomes too much to communicate.
  • As you write your messages, stop occasionally and rehearse each one. Do this individually but also rehearse with a friend or colleague who can offer constructive feedback and ideas. When you speak out loud your messages will sound different than when you read them to yourself.  You will also increase your confidence to deliver your branding messages if you rehearse in this way.


Once you’ve got your branding statements written, practice saying them out loud a few times. The more you practice your statements, the more comfortable you will be with them. This will result in an increase in confidence as you share these statements with others.

Once you are confident in your branding messages, take the bold step of seeking opportunities to use them. You may want to do this with known colleagues and gradually extend that out in your company. You should consider external networking opportunities to use your branding messages once you are confident. If you do not seek out these opportunities, they may never come.

If you would like a personal branding worksheet or some help crafting your personal brand messages, please get in touch using the forms on this website.