“Although it’s still early days, collaborative working environments are fast becoming a trend in the South African workplace,” says Gavin Olivier, Managing Executive of LRMG Performance Company. These environments strongly support the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development where only 10% of learning and development occurs by way of formal classes and courses and the remaining 90% occur through experiential and social learning in the workplace.
Collaborative working environments support learning in these informal learning spaces driving social engagement primarily amongst generation Y-employees who are fully conversant with the capabilities of social media. “That’s why it’s in the best interest of organisations to continually look for ways to embrace the world of social and collaboration, and harness it to their benefit.”
He cites an article by Karen O’Leonard from Bersin & Associates stating that corporate learning is entering a new era in which workers not only need formal training built around specific problems and talent needs, but also a complete ‘learning environment’ that provides support, as well as the ability to collaborate, network and share information to solve problems.
Olivier says this suggests a collaborative workplace with a sophisticated social network in place through which people are able to share and access knowledge, people, concepts and learning as and when they need it. “For example compare communication through traditional email as opposed to creating a document on a shared platform which all relevant parties will have access to and can collaborate, capture notes and key pointers in real time - all with relative ease. Rather than experiencing communication as tedious and time consuming, employees will feel they’ve contributed and been heard, and record has been made of it.”
Harnessing the collective intelligence of an organisation in this way, leverages the practice of collaboration to the benefit of everyone, and makes social learning much more effective. On a practical level this requires a learning management system or existing social collaboration tools - whether it’s the enterprise social network Yammer, wiki tools, blogs, or other collaborative tools built around video learning. “Such a collaborative platform translates into a work space without physical boundaries, as you are no longer constrained by the walls of the office. You can collaborate from any device wherever you are in the world as long as you have internet connectivity,” he points out.
This level of social learning and collaboration at work also helps employees solve problems faster and make decisions quicker, saves money, increases employee engagement, elicits feedback from staff as part of a performance process, and enhances knowledge management by harnessing intellectual property in the business so it becomes part of the knowledge asset of the company.
Olivier summarises by saying the success and implementation of these collaborative social environments can be measured by firstly the extent to which they are underpinned by strong change management. “It’s not just a question of building the platform and the employees will follow, especially because the workforce consists of various generations of people. You essentially have to convince people why it’s beneficial for them to collaborate.”
Secondly, another critical aspect is ensuring all content and information on this platform is engaging and of a superior quality. “There has to be buy-in and drive from an executive level to generate behavioural change throughout the organisation. For example, the CEO can’t still send out a monthly email with corporate results and other relevant information. One has to incentivise and drive the CEO and the rest of the staff contingent into this collaborative learning space. Only then will you get the desired traction,” he concludes.