I am not saying in-person training is going away. I would actually be at the front of the line to disagree with someone that makes such an absolute statement. We just need to remind ourselves where in-person training fits into our toolbox.
That simply isn’t the case any more. Technology has advanced to a level in which many aspects of social learning that historically could only take place in-person can now take place just as effectively online. To add further weight to this shift, many learners are accustomed to using these types of tools in their personal lives, making them a comfortable and often desirable platform for learning.
Finally, I should also point out that my comment regarding training rooms becoming the largest closet in the office was also loosely based on a recent real-life example. I had an in-person workshop scheduled, and went to prepare our training room the day before the event. I was surprised and displeased to find three giant laser printers, still new in the box, stacked on the tables of the training room.
I requested that they be removed, and asked why they were ‘stored’ in the only room in the building allocated to training. I explained that using the room for storage could disrupt our planning, as it was a critical resource for learning and performance.
The response I received was simple: “Dave, those printers have been there for almost two weeks; you haven’t noticed them before today?”
I hadn’t. And with that, much of the outrage I was feeling about the audacity someone had to use the training room for storage felt unjustified.
A few years ago those printers wouldn’t be in a training room for more than a few hours before I noticed them and raised the alarm. Today they were there for almost two weeks before I noticed. The training room is still an important resource, but as technology continues to advance and our dependence on it continues to lessen, chances are you too will one day find it being used as ‘temporary storage’.
The discussion then moved on to what learning professionals can do to prepare ourselves for the changes in our roles. There was a fairly consistent theme to the answers: We need to learn about the tools of social media so that we can be prepared to use them.
I think our preparations need to go a little further than just ‘learning the tools’. That is a key part of it, but it’s not THE key part of it.
I remember when my father taught me how to drive. He took me to the local school’s parking lot on a weekend, when it was completely empty. He taught me how a car worked. We went over every pedal, switch, knob, and dial, and put them into action. I drove around that parking lot for hours and days on end, practicing the skills associated with operating an automobile.
And yet, even after seemingly countless hours of practice, I still did not know how to drive.
Truly knowing how to drive requires the ability to exist and respond to the environment of the driving world: the other drivers, pedestrians, road work, highways, and countless other inputs that must be processed and responded to in a manner consist with what is accepted within the ‘driving community’.
Using social media for learning is really no different. You can understand how the technology of a social media tool functions, but that doesn’t mean you know how to use it. To use it effectively, you must put the tool to practice within an active social media community. More importantly, to truly know how to use these tools effectively, you must participate in social media communities.
I find the most effective ways to do this is to find existing communities that you are interested in personally or professionally, and participate in them. If your first participation in a social media community is one that is launched at your organization, you leave yourself at a severe disadvantage.
The discussion concluded by exploring how we can prepare the people in our organizations for the changes being brought to us by social media.
A common theme of the responses was that we need to lead by example. That goes back to my previous point of participating in these communities and speaking their value. I also think it’s important to talk about the benefits of these tools with senior managers so that they understand their value.
Often a discussion about social media centers on risk: We’ll lose productivity, it’s not secure, and countless other objections that we have been hearing about for years. It’s for this reason that I think two critical things must be represented in these discussions.
First, you do need to talk about risk. However, the risk you need to talk about isn’t answering the question “What are the risks of us doing this?”; the question you should focus on is “What are the risks if we don’t”.
There are great current examples that can be used to demonstrate this. Two that come immediately to mind are Blockbuster Video and Borders Bookstores. Both companies kept their head in the sand as technology fundamentally changed their industry. They did not respond to the changes until it was too late, and both companies are near bankruptcy. That’s what happens when you choose to ignore the changes going on around you. That’s the risk you need to be talking about to prepare your organization for this change.
Another thing to bring into the discussion are real-life examples. Many stakeholders are ignorant to the value of social media in general, so you might need to show it to them. An technique I’ve used is searching social media for comments about my organization.
Recently I found a post on Twitter that was complaining about a service issue at one of our locations. I took a screen print of the tweet and sent it to a senior manager with a simple message “How would you like us to respond to this?”
The response I received back instructed me to respond to the customer personally, but it also included a gold nugget of value: “Where did this come from?”. That simple question created an opportunity for me to have a conversation with a senior manager about social media tools.
Social media tools are already impacting the environments organizations do business in, even if they have not yet been put into use within an organizations. The impact of these tools increases every day, and the day in which organizations can no longer ignore their influence is rapidly approaching.