Using Social Technologies to Reshape L&D’s Role

December 8, 2017

In a recent webinar delivered by Brandon Hall – The Impact of Digital Learning on Strategy – one of the talking points had to do with the evolving role of the learning professional in today’s tech-enabled workplace. Rather than replacing trainers and facilitators, the online tools that enable things like real-time communication, global collaboration or blended learning actually provide an opportunity for expanding learning and development’s (L&D) role. For example, in addition to instructional design, system administration, coaching, etc., functions such as community managementand content curation are the kinds of things learning and development (L&D) could be involved in when an organization integrates Office 365 or Jive.

This, in combination with the fact that implementations of SmarterPath do not always originate with the L&D team, got me thinking about my own experience where the strategic value of human resources was a frequent topic at professional conferences, in publications and in those all-important “shop talk” sessions with team members. Described using the “seat at the table” phrase, it was this seemingly achievable goal we had to either earn or be given the opportunity by our organization’s leadership to align learning outcomes with business strategy.

If your experience is anything like mine your business acumen has evolved along with your pursuit of this so-called “seat at the table.” For example, you probably track learning hours by modality, by program, by employee, etc. This activity-/utilization-based data is then used to determine the cost of learning on a per unit basis. We analyze these data points because the more we have a handle on the numbers the more likely we are to at least be part of the conversation.

A “seat at the table” also seemed to imply that the organization believed that so many core operational functions rely on robust and relevant learning. Ask any salesperson and he’ll tell you product knowledge is at the top of the list when it comes to what’s needed for success. Ask any new employee and she’ll tell you knowing what to do and who/what’s available to help you get the job done are key to demonstrating value quickly. Ask any product development leader and she’ll tell you innovation comes from an elusive combination of in-house wisdom and real-world insights.

My point with these examples is how clearly they show that learning couldn’t be any closer to performance. Learning enables performance. Learning is the catalyst for getting work done and achieving outcomes. Learning done is performance. It is this clear connection between learning and work that provides L&D with the opportunity to reshape its role. How do we do that? One way is by implementing social technologies. By capitalizing on L&D’s central position within the organization, we can advocate for social and blended learning. It’s a universal, enterprise-wide use case that transcends all departments and for me it was:

  • the catalyst for implementing Jive at a $1B education services provider,
  • a driver behind a 50-plus percent increase in net new users in less than a year, and
  • an integral part of increasing and sustained adoption of the new technology.

Social learning? Training? Human Resources? I get it. These are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think about implementing new technologies, ensuring adoption or generating ROI. That’s the point. While it’s easily overlooked, employee know-how matters to all levels of any organization, no matter what industry it’s in. In the knowledge economy, when it comes to leadership development or compliance training or on-boarding – and everything in between – there’s a direct connection between learning and performance. Because of these far-reaching impacts, L&D can provide both the initial and on-going justification for investing in collaborative technologies.

Pull out that chair and take a seat at the table. It’s time.

Note: previous blog posts related to this topic include Community with a Capital C and Four Steps of Content Up-cycling.


About the author

Stan’s first experience with instructional technology occurred in 1999 when he used SMART Boards to help employees learn how to use the Microsoft Office Suite. He then became an instructional designer and systems trainer for a variety of proprietary CRM software solutions. From there, Stan worked as a Training Manager and later as a Project Manager for an early leader in online education. As his experience with online learning grew, and as his understanding of the need to connect strategy with technology evolved, Stan began to focus on the relationship between blended learning and social business. It was these insights that attracted him to Jive and Pokeshot’s SmarterPath LMS the first time he saw it in 2012. Stan’s current role with the company not only allows him to support the sales, marketing, and product development teams, but it also allows him to work directly with customers as they implement SmarterPath. Prior to joining Pokeshot in October 2016, Stan spent several years working as a freelance consultant, successfully completing learning technology projects for such clients as Right Management, National University System and the U.S. Forest Service.

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