Musings on Social Learning If there is one part of HR that seems constantly under question for its “ROI” potential, credibility or plaineffectiveness it is what is usually known as “Training” – or in the new world as “Learning”, “ManagementDevelopment” etc.The reasons for the questions are not difficult to spot.Training is the only group in HR that actually spends hard cash externally, as opposed to Recruitmentthat uses it to get talent or Compensation and Benefits that spend it as salaries. Once people see rupeesflowing out of the organizational kitty, they are quick to question the ‘effectiveness’ of these trainings.The training folks in organizations, haven’t actually covered themselves in laurels when it comes to theirwork.The reasons for these are varied. Here is my diagnosis of the reasons:Training is usually organized as a monolithic sub-function within HR and is junior staffed. This usuallymeans a fresh graduate gets the fancy title of “training asst manager” or some such designation andbecomes a gopher for meeting various training requests. • Why training is being asked for? • What skills/competency gaps will it fill? • What is the follow up program for that training ?Questions like these are scarcely asked.Metrics used to measure training are usually uni-dimensional. Lacking either content expertise orprocess expertise, the training dept/person is measured by the HR head on factors like : • Number of training programs conducted • Satisfaction ratings • Number of people trained • Number of training days conducted per employee etc • Budget variations to planWith the result, that the training department/person essentially is trying to meet these metrics. As youmight have noticed none of these metrics even talk about linkage of training to business needs oroutcomes. Any wonder why training fails to link up strategically.Different groups need to own different parts of training. Content expertise for example resides in thevarious groups. The training group needs to turn facilitator and help these groups discover their ownknowledge and learnings. The role that training needs to play is less of ‘content provider’ and more ofstandard settings and inculcating similar language across various organizational silos.
Training also needs to engage with various groups to help them to share learnings that are localized,across the organizations.At a horizontal level, training needs to work with business and identify developmental areas of variouslevels to meet current and emerging business needs.By doing that training will need to do a role that even HR is struggling in most organizations. i.e. linkingto strategic business needs. That can happen best when training is led by someone who has been inbusiness or can demonstrate in depth understanding.The path for Training to become strategicTo uncover the way to become strategic training groups need to start doing the following:Ask questions : Most training people are so ‘task focused’ that they do not seem to be able to ask “whyam I doing this?” “How will this impact my firm’s bottomline?” If they do not think about ROI, others willthink it for themThink numbers : Training professionals need to think about a new set of metrics that focus more oneffectiveness and less on efficiency. They have to rise from Kirkpatrick’s level 1 to level 3 and 4.Realise that learning is more than training: Let’s face it. Face to face, classroom training probablyaccounts for less than 30% of what a person actually learns in an organization. Trainers, have to startthinking how factors like supervisor and management support will help in learning, how they will help inapplying concepts learnt to increase workplace productivity. Attending training programs should not bethe end, increasing workplace productivity should beInvolve line managers: Training professionals should involve line managers to actually be responsible fortheir employees trainings and where possible they should actually conduct the training themselves.Outsourcing training might help in the short term, but does not pass organizational culture along.Transparency: People who are getting trained need to understand the larger context of where thetraining fits in with organizational strategy. Their managers and training professionals need to paint thewhole picture to help them understand and communicate it to them.New skills: Trainers themselves should pick up new skills like business and financial skills and not be justevent managers. They need to understand the linkages between knowledge, learning and performanceto figure out how they can add value to the organization.Understand the real difference between Learning and Training and howto use Social technologiesLearning has always been social, in the real world. Think about the time you learned how to cycle ordrive a car. You decided to ask an expert you trusted. They gave you instructions. You practiced. They
gave you feedback. You failed a couple of times. And then if you kept at it, you could cycle/drive - firsttentatively and then with time, without consciously thinking about it.However, learning in the real world is different from how organizations believe it to work.In organizations, your manager decides you need to learn something (mostly because the "competencymodel" tell him to do a job, you need a skill). Your wishes on whether you want to learn it are hardlytaken into account.Then you are packed off to a "training program" where others like you have been "nominated" by theirmanagers. And then you are subjected to some "training games" and exposed to some theory aboutwhatever you have to be trained on. And if youre lucky you do some role plays, case studies and tests ,post which you returned to your workplace with a certificate of training.So training gets over. But when does learning take place?Learning takes place when the "knowledge" gained is actually applied in the context of work. Whathappens with a person tries a new way of working that he has supposedly "learned"? Work suffers. Hefails once or twice. And then his manager, impatient that time is passing tells him to get a move on.So he reverts back to the old way of doing things. And learning is nipped in the bud.That is the sad truth of "learning & development/training" in most organizations.How could social technologies help? 1. First, creating a community of fellow learners before they "attend training" would help them to learn from each others experiences. 2. Focusing away from "competencies needed" to people sharing their expertise and strengths. 3. The facilitator sharing content and theory before the training - so that face to face time could be used for practice and feedback 4. The community of learners could be a support and ideation group when they go back to the workplaces and implement the learnings. 5. The managers could also be a part of the community to understand how better to support their peoples learning to be translated into the workplaceSome examples that could be put together are:Basics of the subject expertise – Files, Websites, Videos, List of Books that act as a primer for gainingknowledgeAdditional Reading Material – Documents that people can downloadList of Resources – Agencies, Thought Leaders, Partners collated at one point. List of People (yellow pages) – employees who have worked on Initiatives and how to contact them(email, Skype, IM)
FAQs – A series of basic questions focused on what a new employee needs to know Best Practices – e-books, videos, ppts.All the above can be edited by certain key people. Other employees can add comments below thecontent.Once people have gone through this they can be tested for their knowledge using a quiz/survey tool –acting as a feedback measure to what they have learntUpdating new informationWhat’s new and up to date in the domain and what is the buzz around the firms products/services/operations and what is the Market/Competitive IntelligenceRSS feeds of Google Alerts with key words around the brand name, competitor name, market name.RSS feeds of thought leaders blogs and websites to ensure new ideas come directly to the employee’sdesktopTwitter updates of the who’s who of subject matter so that employees can track and even interact withthem. Using lists curation services like http://listorious.com/Competitive Intelligence – A dynamic page which is updated with news/tweets about the majorcompetitors based on publicly available data. Collated and shown on a specific site. The commentssection would enable the employees to add their personal experiences on what the competitor is doingin their specific regions.New videos and Slideshows – Using a keyword tracking processes, new videos and slides updated on thespecific subjects (like “Financial marketing” or "Consumer Behavior" or "HR Trends") would beembedded in the dashboard of the employees.CollaborationEnabling employees to learn from each other using learning logs, ideation and connecting with eachother.Ideation Platform: A blog/wiki in which senior management asks for ideas around a certain campaign,product on initiativesStatus updates – would let other people know what the employee is working on so that if anyone hasany ideas/lessons to share can do that via the tool.Lessons Learnt: Similar to the ideation platform focusing on the past initiatives and what worked andbest practices learnt from themSharing project plans for initiatives and getting peers’ feedback on them.
Q&As with partners, senior management, consultants – which are archived – and after some time somewhich are basic can be moved into the FAQs section in the static part.Discussion around events like conferences, trainings that some employees go to – can share learnings,videos, slides with the rest of the peer group – resulting in richer and more learningAbout:Gautam Ghosh is a Social Business and HR Consultant. He specializes in the areas of HR, OrganizationDevelopment and how businesses can leverage Social tools for HR. He is an advisor to HR magazinePeople Matters and a Subject Matter Expert in the “Social Media and HR” area for SHRM India.Earlier he was the India Marketing Lead at BraveNewTalent and before that a Consultant with SocialBusiness firm 2020 Social where he led the Talent practice, advising companies can build talent pipelinesand employee engagement and learning using emergent tools.Gautam has worked as a HR Generalist and a Learning and Development Executive in firms like Deloitte,Dell, Hewlett Packard and Satyam. He is an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur.