Work, Connect & Learn Program Q&A


Community logo with textIn September I delivered a webinar on the Work Connect and Learn (WCL) program for the 702010 Forum.  Helen Blunden, who developed and facilitated the first program delivery, co-presented.  While the webinar recording is only available to 702010 Forum members, the presentation content was largely drawn from posts we had each made as part of the evolving Community of Practice case study hosted on my blog.  There were a lot of questions raised during the webinar which we weren’t able to respond to so I have posted responses below.

Q: How long has the program been up and running? How many employees are currently in this program

We have run the program twice – in February / March 2015, and April / May 2015. Since then we have been supporting application of the skills and behaviours covered in the program through ongoing Communities of Practice.

250 people participated across the two programs – 200 in the first and 50 in the second. In hindsight, the first group was too big and diverse for us to effectively support and properly engage everyone as a ‘community’ in the program. Note that it was the diversity and different entry level of skill with online tools rather than the group size that created the biggest challenges for keeping all participants fully engaged in the program. The second group had a clearer common practice / domain area and similar entry level skills. We were able to track and enable participation more effectively with this group.

Q: What program did you utilise to facilitate the webinars, and did you record them for individuals to view at a later date? Also, were the webinars interactive, or more of a presentation?

We ran the webinars using Lync (now called Skype for Business). We recorded webinars, put them (unlisted) on YouTube and posted links to recordings in SharePoint discussion forums. This was particularly helpful in a shift environment to people whose work shifts precluded attending scheduled sessions. The webinars were a mix of presentation and interaction. Lync/Skype for Business includes chat, polls and whiteboards. Some webinar activities were conducted using MS OneNote (wiki functionality). We also used teleconference during the webinars so we could have verbal discussions without intranet bandwidth challenges. We deliberately used our day to day corporate tools.

Q: From a planning perspective- how long did it take to build the WCL

The analysis / performance consulting phase occurred in November 2014, design in December 2015, and development of both the program and the online community spaces was complete in early February 2015. Taking into account the Christmas break, this amounted to one month for analysis and approximately two months for design and development.

Q: What were the challenges in creating the shift to this type of learning?

Some of our people don’t spend a lot of time at a computer or use mobile devices as they work. In this case it’s difficult to establish convenient habits and ways of engaging in online knowledge sharing and collaboration. Even where people have good access to technology, for many using SharePoint and mobile tools for learning were quite new. However, through the program people realised that they have collaborative tools at their fingertips which they can use in their work practices.

The other challenge is to help people develop habits to check and use the forums, think to ask a question or share what they are doing. In the second version of the program we put a lot more emphasis on activities to help people form habits.

Q: Do the maintenance personnel have their own computers at work, do they share computers, etc?  What is the access to the technology needed?

See the question above. Our maintenance personnel will be moving to mobile mobile devices in 2016 as part of introducing a mobility app for our core maintenance management system. To support this initiative we will provide training/hand-holding on use of the mobile devices, and will also run a tailored version Work Connect and Learn for this group.

Q: What role, if any, did managers play in helping to create and/or facilitate this culture of learning?

WCL has now been delivered to two groups. For the first group, our Maintenance and Engineering Community, managers participated alongside team members. Their participation was important to role model behaviours and encourage others to engage in collaborative learning and working. For the second group, our Systems Community, managers were not participants.

Because this style of learning and working is different to previous approaches we have used, we developed a change management plan which started with engaging the managers as a first step. We held teleconference discussions with them prior to commencing each of the programs so they were aware of the aims and what they could do to support their team members to get the most out of the program. We provided them posters and talking points so they could introduce the program to their teams and discuss their commitment to it before launch.

We have also followed up with managers to keep them abreast of what is happening in the Communities of Practice on an ongoing basis and to specifically seek support at times (e.g. ‘Did you see this post from your team member – it’s great – you might want to leave a comment to support them.’)

Q: What about keeping the community going after the program, community management/facilitation – who is taking the lead on that?

The National Engineering and Maintenance Managers facilitate this community with support from the Academy. We ran a coaching program on community facilitation for these people.

The Systems community is facilitated by Academy team members in conjunction with 1 or more Super Users from within the business. The closer level of involvement of the Academy is due to the tight integration of the Community of Practice with our internal systems certification program.

Q How much intervention is required to keep it going – to have it self managing?

We are not yet at the point where any of our communities are ‘self-managing’. We’re considering creating a ‘Community and Knowledge Manager’ role to increase focus on building effective Communities of Practice.

Q: What was the name of the gamification that you used?

We didn’t have a gamification platform to use and the native SharePoint community gamification didn’t suit our purpose.  So we kept the game simple and tracked it manually.

Q: Have people used video to show their work practices and share them across the geographic areas?

In our Systems community some people have made screencasts. In our maintenance community short videos are sometimes posted to illustrate equipment problems and fixes. Our maintenance people have sometimes used FaceTime to show each other what is happening on a production line to help with troubleshooting.

Q: Is the shared learning moderated to ensure consistency and quality?

Consistency and quality comes from generating an open sharing, learning and working environment within the community. There is no screening or review of discussion forum or newsfeed posts before they are ‘publicly’ viewable. The intent is to surface and clarify misinformation or misunderstanding and utilise the expertise available in the community to provide accurate information or better ways of doing things – or to co-create these.

There is an element of moderation on the ‘Knowledge Bites’ which are user-generated ‘how to guide’s and similar content. However the moderation is undertaken in public view. A traffic light system is used to highlight content in development, under expert review and where expert review has been completed.

Q: What has been the feedback from the participants?

I am preparing a blog post to summarise program evaluation. In the meantime, high level summary of what participants found useful and suggested improving after the first delivery of WCL is below. Overall the program was well received by those who had good daily access to the tools needed to participate.

Useful Improvements
Tools & how to use them

Awareness of new ways of working, connecting & learning

Connecting to others

Social networking

Knowledge sharing

Access to information

Target audience was too wide

Access to tools by tradespeople

More interaction in webinars

Support resources / job aids

Follow on support for continued learning

Technical problems with early webinars

Q: Can you enlighten us on what the specific performance outcomes were as these are quite hard to define.

Refer to this post for more detail on the evaluation approach and performance outcomes / metrics used for the program and communities of practice.

Q: You mentioned measurement before, during and after. How long after did you measure impact and what did you learn?

Refer to this blog post for an overview of the evaluation approach. I will soon add a post on evaluation immediately after the WCL program. Refer to this post for a medium term view of how our communities of practice are progressing.

Q: I’m interested to know if CCA has seen a shift in engagement and performance as a result of these initiatives?

Shifting a learning culture and embedding knowledge sharing into work practices takes time. We have seen specific examples of improvements in work practices and processes, although could not yet make a link between the program / communities of practice and overall business unit performance or engagement. The results have been encouraging enough that our management team is supportive of continuing with our social learning initiatives.

Q: How would you scale this type of program to other areas in the business?

One way is to develop a self-directed curated version of the program, as described in response to the question above.

A ‘public version’ of the guided social learning program could also be run that supports the development of skills for collaborative working and learning in the network era without activities being linked to a specific community of practice.

Q: When wouldn’t this approach work? What sort of things would you definitely not use this approach for?

Compliance training needs more ‘control’ than a semi-structured community-based social learning approach provides. Hands-on novice level job skills would better be suited to on the job training supported by performance support resources such as job aids and checklists. Beyond these two instances knowledge sharing and collaboration supported by networks and communities offer significant advantages over ‘training’.

Refer to previous answers regarding access to computers or mobile devices, plus basic familiarity with the tools used. This familiarity can be developed via preliminary learning / support activities before commencing the full WCL program.

Q: What are the next steps for this program?

There are several things we are now doing with this program to reuse and adapt it:

  • Curating key content for self-directed use by both people who have completed WCL and need refresher or performance support, or for independent use across the business.
  • Updating the social guided learning version of the program to support the launch of additional, targeted communities after our peak Christmas season.
  • Adding preliminary components to support people to develop familiarity and confidence with mobile and online technology as a pre-requisite to the WCL program.

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  1. #1 by Activate Learning Solutions on October 27, 2015 - 10:02 am

    Hello Michelle. This is a brilliant post that encapsulates all the questions, answers and the thinking around the program. Just seeing it in writing makes you realise the level of effort, consideration, planning and influencing that needs to occur to socialise learning in the workplace and to make it performance orientated without losing the opportunity for people to network and learn from each other. I do recall the wonderful ways we were testing out all the tools, systems, platforms and apps and thinking of ways to make them work for our own context as well as how the teams may use them for theirs. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

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