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Implementing social collaboration into your organisation

10th Apr 2013
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It's the C word again. Vincent Belliveau reinforces the importance of knowledge sharing.

With organisations around the world growing in size due to expansion into new markets and mergers and acquisitions, effective communication and sharing is becoming increasingly important. Recently we’ve seen Apple announce that it now has 72,800 full-time employees, which is up from 60,400 in 2011, while Facebook bought the hugely popular photo-sharing app company, Instagram in 2012 for $1bn. As companies become bigger, they also become more complex and therefore the ability to share benefits and best practise in the form of knowledge sharing has become more important. One new way of doing this is through social collaboration.

The concept of social collaboration works by bringing together people to share information and expertise to achieve a common goal. The internet is the perfect way to facilitate the processes and allows anyone from any location to share ideas, skills and expertise as they are not limited to people that they know directly or can physically interact with. Advancements in technology such as smartphones and tablets, and social platforms such as LinkedIn and Yammer further enhance social collaboration and make it even easier to access. However, it isn’t always easy to facilitate such change and innovative ways of sharing and communicating information.

The challenges of social collaboration

With any new approach or technology, fear of change is often the biggest barrier. When it comes to L&D, organisations often foster the approach that training is only really training when it involves sitting in a classroom with a trainer and a test is held at the end of the course. There can also be a feeling of ‘this is how we do things’ and this mindset can find organisations using outdated approaches without questioning them and missing out on the benefits of the latest innovations.

"As companies become bigger, they also become more complex and therefore the ability to share benefits and best practise in the form of knowledge sharing has become more important."

As with the fear of change, many businesses rely on a ‘one size fits all’ approach to L&D. However, in today’s business world the need for blended learning is becoming more apparent, which isn’t just classroom-based learning or just social learning through virtual classrooms or online courses. Instead, it’s the common ground between the two and focuses on using the right approach for the right subject. For example, when it comes to management skills, both approaches would work well, however, for a training session on compliance, a virtual course may work better as there are specific modules that must be communicated.

Individuals can also be unsure of embracing social collaboration if they are unfamiliar with the technologies or platforms that support it. It’s therefore important to understand the audience and find the best way of communicating the benefits and opportunities. For example, if you have an employee that doesn’t have a profile on LinkedIn, they may be hesitant regarding using the resources and insight uploaded onto it. By understanding how different individuals, cultures and departments operate, you can bring these key learnings together to ensure everyone understands the benefits social collaboration can bring to an organisation and their role in terms of sharing expertise and knowledge and embrace it so that they can work and collaborate together more effectively.

Furthermore, it can also be difficult to manage all the materials that are shared through social collaboration and ensure the quality of them. For example, if an individual posts a quick tutorial on best practise for engaging on Twitter, it’s important that there is the ability to link the tutorial to the individual posting it and allow viewers to rate the quality of the information. This will help manage the quality of the information shared and also create accountability.

Experiencing the benefits of social collaboration

If you can overcome these challenges, social collaboration has the ability to encourage people, regardless of their location, to work to a common goal with their colleagues. It also helps foster new relationships within organisations and encourages peer-to-peer learning. For example, if you are taking part in a virtual training course with someone doing the same role but in a different country or office, you can share your experiences and knowledge on similar challenges and how you overcame them. Alternatively, if you’d learnt something that you thought your colleagues could benefit from, you could create a presentation and upload it into the community for others to view and learn from.

Also, by creating searchable profiles which can be filtered based on expertise and experience, individuals can search for people with specific skills or expertise to help you understand a specific topic to support a project or goal. It also breaks down barriers to working with people from all levels of the organisations.

"If an organisation can master the art of social collaboration, it will experience the benefits of improved knowledge sharing whilst providing consistent communication."

Social collaboration can also act as a great tool in helping to capture all of your people’s knowledge capital. It is virtually impossible for a business to try and capture all of this information on its own but by having employees empowered to share and document information themselves, it will help organisations keep all of its knowledge capital within.

In today’s business world organisations are trying to have global values but deliver them through a local approach. Social collaboration supports this approach perfectly by sharing information, content and knowledge on a global scale but facilitating the ability to localise it to meet the specific needs of the local market. This in turn helps to ensure consistency whilst avoiding repetition as people can search and share resources. This in turn also saves time and financial resources.

Looking to the future

Embracing social collaboration comes with its own set of unique challenges; not least of all is the fear of change from within the organisation itself. However, it is important to overcome this fear as there are many benefits to be reaped, including the ability to share knowledge and encourage peer-to-peer learning. Furthermore, because social collaboration all takes place online, organisations will have a vessel for capturing and storing all of its people’s knowledge capital – even when they have left.

Indeed, organisations are not going to stop growing and expanding into new markets, making effective knowledge capture and training methods ever more important. If an organisation can master the art of social collaboration, it will experience the benefits of improved knowledge sharing whilst providing consistent communication. This can only help to improve an organisation’s ability to perform both now and in the future, whatever the economic weather.

Vincent Belliveau is senior vice president and general manager of Europe, Cornerstone OnDemand

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