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  • Bill Cushard 9:00 am on August 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Overcoming Three Roadblocks to High Performance with Enterprise Social Networks 

    Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

    My research is leading me to some interesting perspectives on how enterprise social networks (ESN) can improve performance in organizations. Etienne Wenger’s work on Communities of Practice suggest several business problems that can be overcome through the effective use of ESNs. These problems are roadblocks to high performance, and developing communities of practice on ESNs can remove some of these roadblocks.

    Roadblock 1: Speed of Knowledge Economy

    Things (economy, competition, customer needs, innovation, etc.) are moving way too fast for the manner in which most organizations are structured. Moreover, the collective knowledge of any field is changing at an accelerating rate. Centralized communications, knowledge management, and training functions cannot keep up with the ever-changing need for information. Wenger (Cultivating Communities of Practice, 2002) says it best: “Without communities focused on critical areas, it is difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of change”. Active communities of practice can keep up, especially if much of the community’s participation is on a enterprise social network. Conversations on ESNs occur at the very speed at which the business (and its participants) are running. They are naturally in sync.

    (More …)

  • Bill Cushard 9:00 am on June 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Your Social Network is Your Performance Support 

    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    One major trend in enterprise learning and development is performance support. Performance support is about providing employees the information they need to do their jobs, when they need it.

    Performance support is effective in solving two problems. First, with everything people need to know to do their jobs, there is very little chance that everything can be taught in a training class. Second, even if it all could be taught, much of it would be forgotten because we forget much of what we learn soon after training. We simply cannot remember it all.

    Therefore, performance support provides a means of taking some of that information and placing it in the hands of employees, so they access it later when they need it.

    The problem with performance support is that it is generally a centralized function that requires someone to constantly update existing content and create new content. This is always a daunting task in organizations, and what traditionally happens is that the speed of content outpaces a company’s ability to update it. Certainly, the organization can hire three more content writers, but that is expensive. So as soon as the performance support content is created, it becomes outdated.

    Even though it is expensive, performance support is necessary. People need access to information in order to do their jobs. So, is there a better way to handle performance support that does not reply entirely on a centralized content creation function?

    Social Learning as Performance Support

    Think about how people learn. Though there are many ways people learn, one important way is when people interact with each other. When people participate in conversations, especially when these conversations are about specific topics towards a specific purpose, people learn. This is what a social theory of learning is all about. People negotiate meaning (learn something) through a back-and-forth process of participation and reification.

    Participation is about engaging in conversations. Reification is about taking the content of these conversations and making them real and/or producing concrete resources that can be shared and otherwise made available as physical objects. So people learn as a result of ongoing conversations that then, in some cases, produce physical resources that capture the content of those conversations.

    All of a sudden, there is less of a reliance on a centralized process of creating resources because the conversations, when they have a purpose, naturally result in resources, which can become performance support.

    The conversation becomes the content.

    Enterprise Social Networks Enable Social Learning

    Enterprise social networks are designed specifically so that conversations can occur among people who share an interest in a topic. The result is learning.

    The great thing about enterprise social networks is that people who do not participate in the conversation can benefit from them because the conversations are searchable. A member of the community can search a topic, read through the posts, and learn something that interests them and that may even help them do their job better. And isn’t that the whole point?

    Bill Cushard (@billcush), a new author to our Zyncro Blog. Bill is writerblogger and learning experience (LX) designer and facilitator. He has extensive, in-the-trenches experience in creating learning programs that incorporate semi face-to-face and social learning methods. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.


  • Bill Cushard 9:00 am on May 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    On-boarding New Employees on Enterprise Social Networks 

    Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

    On-boarding new employees is a major undertaking for many organizations. In fact, for most training departments, on-boarding is most of what it does. A lot of money is invested in on-boarding new employees, but there are staggering statistics that show that all of this time, energy, and effort is largely wasted.

    For example, according to the Wynhurst Group, 22% of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days of employment and the cost of losing an employee is at least three times the salary. This means that organizations are spending thousands of dollars per new employee to on-board them only to see many leave, costing the organization even more money to replace.

    These statistics alone should cause business leaders to question whether their current on-boarding efforts are effective enough to reduce these numbers. The good news is that new employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.

    So there is hope.

    Learning Job Skills is a Limited Goal of On-boarding

    The purpose of most on-boarding programs is to help new employees learn the skills they need to perform their jobs. Of course, this is important, but not enough attention is placed on other important goals of on-boarding, including socializing new employees into the culture of the organization. This limited goal of on-boarding is short-sighted because research has shown that effective on-boarding and new employee socialization can lead to positive outcomes in terms of job satisfaction, better performance, higher commitment to the organization, and reduction in intent to quit.

    Therefore, if organizations can just change how they on-board new employees by thinking about socializing new employees into the organization rather than just training them, organizations can improve performance through new employees who are more satisfied at work, perform better in their jobs, are more committed to the company, and have a lower intent to quit.

    So how do organizations socialize new hires instead of just training them? This is where enterprise social networks (ESNs) come into play.

    Where ESNs Come In

    In most cases, a new employee completes a new hire training class and then is shuffled to a desk surrounded by people in their department. Most of what a new person now learns about the company comes from their immediate surroundings, which is only a microcosm of what the company is all about.

    What if a new person ends up sitting in between the two most negative people in the company? What influence do you think they will have on the new person? Enterprise social networks open up the entire company to new employees, and empowers new people to interact with anyone in the organization no matter what department they are in or where in the world they are located.

    In the remainder of this post, I share four ideas for how to use enterprise social networks to more effectively on-board and socialize new employees into your organization.

    Four Ideas for Implementing Effective Socialization on ESNs

    1. New Employee Group: Create a group on the enterprise social network and assign all new hire employees to this group. Encourage new employees (perhaps defined as people hired within the past 0 to 12 months) to interact with each other, share stories of their on-boarding experience, and otherwise support each other.

    2. Assign New Employee Community Manager: Many companies have community managers to facilitate interactions between companies and their customers. The idea is to improve customer engagement. Why not assign a community manager to improve engagement specifically among newly hired employees?

    3. Encourage New Employees to Reach Out (with Direction): One of the most important benefits of enterprise social networks is that they allow employees to easily communicate with people beyond their immediate network. The new hire community manager should encourage new employees to reach out to people all over the organization, which could mean reading posts of others, finding people with expertise, asking questions of people they find interesting or commenting on the posts of others.

    This reach out should be structured in order to get new hires started. One example is a scavenger hunt. All new employees could be given instructions to seek people out using the enterprise social network. Some assignments could be to 1) find three people who share a hobby or interest with you by searching employee profiles; and 2) find three people in departments or with skills and expertise you want to acquire and send them a message asking them a question about how they got started. There are many ways this can be done.

    By providing structure to early activities, it reduces the anxiety of what to look for and also gives new people the confidence to continue to reach out and build their network on the enterprise social network as they progress with the company.

    4. Provide Links to Resources Related to Their Job: As a learning and development professional, I can tell you that the worst thing you can do is cram everything people need to know about their new job into the new hire training. It is too much. New hires get overwhelmed and forget much of what was taught anyway. Enterprise social networks allow you to strip out much of the content from the new hire training, and provide it to your new people over time, and in the moment of need. Use enterprise social networks to post resources when needed and also allow users to share these resources with each other.

    A Natural Opportunity to Improve Performance

    Enterprise social networks provide a natural opportunity for vastly improving how newly hired employees are socialized into organizations. By leveraging the power of enterprise social networks, your new people can be more satisfied at work, will perform better, and will stay longer. How could you not want that? If you are not using an Enterprise Social Network yet, it’s time for you to try Zyncro for free.

    The ideas above are just the beginning of what can be accomplished on enterprise social networks. How are you using enterprise social networks to on-board and socialize new employees into your organization? Share your stories in the comments below.

    Bill Cushard (@billcush), a new author to our Zyncro Blog. Bill is writerblogger and learning experience (LX) designer and facilitator. He has extensive, in-the-trenches experience in creating learning programs that incorporate semi face-to-face and social learning methods. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.


  • Bill Cushard 9:00 am on April 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Improving Sales Enablement with Enterprise Social Networks 

    Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

    Editor’s note: Today we have the pleasure of presenting a new Zyncro Blog author: Bill Cushard (@billcush). He is an authorblogger, and learning experience (LX) designer with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning programs that leverage blended and social learning methods. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

    According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), U.S. businesses spend $15 billion per year on sales training and that many sales people find the training ineffective or less than useful. This statistic should drive business leaders crazy because it forces them to ask what they are getting from such a large investment. And this number is just in the United States. Imagine what that number would be if one includes businesses around the globe. Because of the large amount spent on sales training each year, there is great value in solving the problem of improving the effectiveness of sales enablement efforts in organizations.

    The question is, “How can organizations improve sales enablement efforts, in order to get the most out of the large investment they are making in preparing the sales force to grow their businesses?” According to research, I believe there is promise in the use of enterprise social networks (ESN).

    Research is Pointing Towards ESNs

    In a 2012 article in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, it is suggested that the future of sales training must be individualized, jointly determined, voluntary, tailored to fit mutual needs and offered in various modes. Accordingly, the authors advise that future research should explore different types of technology delivery methods, including social, which could help improve sales training effectiveness.

    Enterprise social networks seem to satisfy this need, which is why I am conducting a research project for my dissertation to test Etienne Wenger’s (1998) social theory of learning. I am seeking to find out whether there is a relationship between participation of newly hired sales people on an enterprise social network and sales results. In other words, if newly hired sales people participate in peer-to-peer, social learning activities on an enterprise social network, will their sales results improve? According to a social theory of learning, it should.

    A Social Theory of Learning: How People Learn

    One key element of a social theory of learning considers that people learn through a back-and-forth duality between participation and reification. Participation refers to taking part in communication, activities, or events and applies both to individuals and groups. Reification refers to the process of solidifying the experience of participation in the form of resources. In other words, learning occurs when there is participation in conversation and available resources about a specific topic.  

    Where Enterprise Social Networks Come In

    Enterprise social networks are designed perfectly with the need for participation and reification in mind. Think about it. On an enterprise social network, people can continually participate in conversations and those conversations can contain links to resources and those conversations themselves become resources (reified conversations) that others can access.

    So, if sales enablement is an on-going process of equiping a sales force and learning occurs through an ongoing process of participation and reification, then enterprise social networks should be a foundational platform to get the most out of an organization’s sales enablement efforts.

    But how, you ask?

    There are many ways enterprise social networks can be leveraged to support sales enablement. Here are three ways to start:

    1. Find Experts: It is not always easy to find the right person with the right expertise in medium to large sized companies. This is especially a problem in companies with offices around the world. With an enterprise social network, people can find expertise from people they have never met and from people around the world.

    2. Ask Questions: We all get stuck on a problem from time-to-time. It could be in a sales meeting, a technical support call, or on a big project with new stakeholders. Sometimes, we do not have the answers we need. On an enterprise social network, we can ask a question. Sure, it is easy to ask questions from people who sit near you, but how do you ask questions of people who work in different offices? And how do you ask questions from people you don’t even know?  An enterprise social network empowers people to ask questions of anyone in the organization.

    3. Sharing Resources and Stories of Success and Failure: If I read an article about a major change to an industry that my company sells to, I can post that link to everyone in my sales organization so that the team is aware. To make my post even more valuable, I can add some commentary to set the context for why I think it is important. This commentary can spark a conversation from others and a discussion can occur that may impact a broader group of sales people.  Furthermore, I can share a recent success I had trying a new sales technique that might benefit the team. Someone else may comment on my story about how that same technique did not work for them. Others can ask further questions and decide for themselves whether the technique would work for them and how they could apply it to their situation. This is a scenario that no training can keep up with.

    Sales Enablement Is Not Just About Sales Training

    Sales enablement is not just about sales training. In fact, Forrester defines sales enablement as an ongoing process that equips client-facing employees to have valuable conversations with clients and prospective clients. Yes, training is vital, and so is a systematic sales process. But in order to foster and sustain an ongoing process that equips your sales force, an enterprise social network must become a foundational infrastructure in sales enablement efforts. As much as organizations spend on sales enablement, efforts to equip the sales force in a sustainable way should be a top priority.

    How do you use enterprise social networks to sustain your sales enablement efforts? Share your stories in the comments below. The sales force of Telefónica Latin America use Zyncro. This is our best example :-)

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