Step 1 – Strategize: There is no one “right” Social Learning strategy, and there is no one right way to develop one. The approach to strategy development depends on several factors such as your organizational structure, existing learning programs, organizational learning culture, and the value executives place on informal learning. The most powerful approach to strategy development, from my experience, is to develop one that is business-driven – aligned to larger company goals like increased innovation, increased collaboration across traditional organizational silos, reducing reliance on the aging workforce, compressing time to performance, etc. The strategy should paint a compelling picture of the future state of Social Learning, clearly articulate the business case for change, and outline the roadmap for how you will get from “here” to “there” (including what must change, stop, and continue).
- A Social Learning strategy and approach document.
- User Stories for selected networking, collaboration, knowledge management, and learning technologies to help stakeholders imagine and see “how it looks in action.”
- A list of expected challenges, uncertainties and risks with a supporting mitigation plan.
- Defined methods and tools to monitor and evaluate Social Learning behaviors and benefits realised.
- An end-to-end High Level Approach and Process Definition for “Implementation and Support.”
- Benchmarking data (in order to validate the overall strategy and approach).
- A list of critical success factors and key planning assumptions.
Step 2 – Implement: Select, procure, install, develop, prepare and test the ‘Social Learning’ eco-system’ (technology, sites, policies, procedures, governance, and team members). I advise you to conduct a proof of concept and pilot test before committing to an enterprise wide implementation.
- Mobilize a Social Learning eco-system (technologies, governance, policies, procedures, services, and roles). Initially you might consider focusing on the most important communities of practices or workforce roles – where the business has the greatest need.
One type of community that merits organizational hosting and orchestration is referred to as “Horizontal.” Such communities are comprised of people who work according to end-to-end methods, on methods that cut across regions, departments or business units, and methods that require a high degree of collaboration and consistency. Examples are supply chain management and financial management.
Another type of community that merits organizational hosting and orchestration is referred to as “Vertical.” Such communities are comprised of people who share a common job role focus and who tend to work within the same department or business unit. Examples are front line managers or sales representatives.
- Assign at least one community manager to each Horizontal or Vertical community of practice. This role is critical to the success of the Social Learning system. The people in this role will provide oversight on usage and policy compliance, manage content, manage community engagement, track and report trends-needs-benefits-impact, and help resolve issues.
- Provide basic training for “users” on the administration and use of each selected platform or technology.
- Implement a Change Management plan to increase awareness, understanding, commitment, and buy in. See step 4.
Step 3 - Source and Develop Content: Develop, source, and repurpose “content”, and place it on the Social Learning system prior to the go live date.
- Select and develop 5 and 10 subject matter experts (SME), from each of the targeted communities of practice, to create content, and to comment or rate content shared by other community members.
- One of the first duties of the selected SMEs is to front load the Social Learning system with “content”. The content will be presented in the form of blogs, wikis, discussion threads, podcasts, documents, etc. The “targeted users” will need a reason to use the new Social Learning system on day one. Front loading the system with “content” will help create some attraction and persuade many of the “targeted users” to log on – and then come back again and again.
- The SMEs will also need some training and orientation in order to perform other duties such as monitoring discussion forums, connecting people to people and people to content, and promoting “good” content via ratings, adding the content to their favourite’s page, and providing special mention of the content on their blogs.
- Populate the home page with engaging information:
Latest news about the community and individual members.
What’s new? Recent contributions made by community members.
What’s popular? Show members what other members are viewing and doing.
Who’s new? Showcasing members who have recently joined.
Who’s popular? Featured members, member interviews, member rankings and other techniques that show members who are most popular and favored.
Notifications highlighted in the top bar to show users when community members have commented on their posts.
Step 4 – Engage the Business: Engage with the business to build stakeholder sponsorship, leadership support, and to understand the cultural challenges and work environment realities. This will help you to drive the desired ‘Social Learning’ behaviors and outcomes.
- Stakeholder Map for each of the targeted communities of practice and workforce roles, as well as for IT, HR, Communications, and Knowledge Management teams.
- Documented concerns, uncertainties and expectations of stakeholders and community members, and an associated communication plan and engagement approach.
- Creation and delivery of communications and engagement deliverables and activities (including the change management plan from step 3).
- Service description for supporting the targeted communities of practice or workforce roles, and a dedicated point-of-contact for each.
Step 5 – Monitor and Evaluate: Monitor use of technology, networking patterns, knowledge sharing and consumption, and discussion threads in order to evaluate the business case, identify best practices, unblock challenges, and improve the ‘Social Learning” approach and outcomes.
- A list of required ‘data’, proposed ‘data’ sources, developed tools, and a data collection plan with clear timeframes and responsibilities.
- Report(s) of key findings, conclusions, results, and recommendations.
- Community participation profile optimization progress report. Measure the percentage of community members that are acting as a Consumer, Creator, Connector, Carrier, or Caretaker and compare this result to the target profile. In addition, assess how well community members are fulfilling each of the 5 aforementioned roles (they might need additional training, tools, guidance, or motivation).