Learning 2.0 – Creating a Competitive Advantage for Your Company

By Bert Sandie posted 05-15-2011 22:46


Employees are one of most overlooked and underutilized resources available to a company. More specifically, if a company can harness the intelligence and efforts of their employees in a coordinated manner then they can create a compelling competitive advantage for their company. Enter Learning 2.0 as a solution to help drive this competitive advantage.

So what is Learning 2.0?  Described below are some ideas on what are the key characteristics of Learning 2.0 and there value proposition to the business.

Better prepared and equipped employees with core and newly emerging capabilities can drive initiatives in areas such as:

  • Innovation
  • Efficiency
  • Quality
  • Financial
  • Metrics
  • Consumer Focus

Learning Connected to Business Imperatives: Learning is highly connected with the needs of the business. Key characteristics to consider in driving business imperatives are:

  • Alignment to company values, vision and mission.
  • Direct connections with the companies fiscal year objectives
  • Focus on key employee populations who will make the biggest impact
  • Key business owners who are sponsors and stakeholders to drive the learning experiences; even better is when executives can deliver part of the experiences (i.e. a lecture, lead a group discussion, etc.).

Learning Experiences:  A learning experience is a set of blended approaches to help employees learn new capabilities over a period of time.  Too often learning at companies gets trapped in delivering lecture-based classroom training that is measured by “bums in seats.” Let’s have a deeper look at the characteristics to consider in creating a set of rich learning experiences:

  • The employees are referred to “participants” not “attendees”; this may seem subtle, but out of the gate we want employees to understand that the requirement is to be active participants in the learning journey.
  • Participants (when possible) attend as intact teams. Note that intact teams can be the actual team you work on, a cross-organizational team working on a project, a special SWAT team charged with driving an initiative, etc. The rationale for this is an intact team experience allows team members to:
    • Discuss and have intimate context about their specific situation/team; this also allows customization for key topics for the team
    • Return to their team environment to collectively introduce and lead change
  • Learning experiences occur over a period time to provide better uptake of the materials (i.e., reduce information overload), to allow opportunities for reinforcement, and the introduction of new/supplemental materials to continue the learning process. The experience includes:
    • Pre-work:  This might involve reading articles, participating in a simulation, completion of an assessment/survey, etc.  The idea is to create some initial understanding of the learning materials and create context for the next phase that is the actual experience.
    • Actual Experiences(s): This is a blended experience that includes lecture, class/group discussion, individual work, group work, simulations, etc.  The participants need to undertake and leave with progress on their real work as part of this experience (i.e., they leave with a 90-day plan for their top 5 initiatives with milestones, owners and metrics of success/completion).  Note that the actual experience may be a number of distinct events over the span of a few months to years (i.e., quarterly sessions lasting 1 to 2 days over the span of one year).
    • Post-work: This may take many forms including one or more of these: monthly/quarterly newsletter, online community, targeted emails, and webinars.
  • Use internal social, online and collaborations tools to support and stimulate the learning experience including:
    • Communities: Provide a dedicated community to support and drive the learning with forums, activity streams, blogs, video and articles/documents.
    • Social: Enable employees to have rich social profiles with pictures, about me, interests, company projects, key skill/capabilities, etc. This allows the work environment to be humanized.
    • Collaboration: This may include web-conferencing, rich media sharing and authoring,

Leverage Expertise: In most cases, learning experiences need to leverage internal subject matter experts or external experts to help define, design, create, deliver, and facilitate the experiences. It is extremely important to create a partnership between your corporate learning/collaboration experts and the subject matter experts to craft the best experience for the participants.

Case Study Example:  Let’s look at a company that sells athletic apparel and shoes through traditional brick-and-mortar methods and has recently moved to a greater digital sales strategy selling direct to consumers. The company generates two billion in revenue with an eroding profit margin. One of the corporate initiatives is to drive 25% of all revenue through direct to consumer sales through their online web presence. Direct to consumer is 50% more profitable then the brick and mortar strategy but only makes up 5% of revenue today.

Two key learning experiences are to be undertaken in the coming year to support this initiative:

  • Educate employees across multiple disciplines on how to leverage near real-time analytics on consumer purchasing to help drive the business.
  • Educate employees across multiple disciplines on how to effectively sell and market their athletics apparel and shoes via a web presence.

Using the Learning 2.0 model presented above what would be your approach?  Please leave comments on your approach and thinking

#e2.0 #social #learning