Four IT Conversations for Learning Professionals

I've been intrigued by the development of my role as a learning/performance support consultant and portal manager. I get to combine being a workplace learning professional while also managing our employee portal (i.e. intranet).

Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, and others have written much about the new, responsive  Learning Concierge. It's an interesting idea, that of the performance/learning consultant who is out and about connecting in their organisations, discovering individual needs, and providing customised learning opportunities to employees. Importantly, these are generally not courses; rather, opportunities for employees to connect with others interested in a process of discovery and analysis of a particular topic, skill or field. 

The skills of the Learning Concierge are widespread, as Jane explains:  

learning and performance practitioners with wide expertise in performance consulting who understand the huge range of opportunities afforded by both formal and informal learning, social and networked learning, performance support, as well as collaborative team working. 

I'm excited that I get to do this every day, from the development of individual personal learning plans, to creating opportunities for communities of learners to collaborate on expanding their knowledge and skills. For example, an ongoing flipped classroom community on consulting skills. Using a social community site on our SharePoint portal, each month has a different theme (for example, facilitation, or building relationships) and planned a month out. This agile planning makes the themes responsive to organizational need. The only in-person time is to offer practice sessions - maximising everyone's use of their time. 

When it comes to the technology, my portal management role complements my organisational leaning plans. I've learned a lot about aligning technological and business goals. All learning professionals interested in this modern approach to L&D should consider the following when pursuing a more open learning/performance support system using a social intranet: 

1) Visioning and strategy. You cannot sit in a corner of HR in this role. You must be active and liaise with all business units. Together, you must ensure the technology fits business requirements. From current state assessments to future visioning, as a learning professional this is great - you get a heads up as to what business goals need immediate learning support and what technology you can take advantage of in the future. You need to be in this conversation. 

2) Content and Tagging audits. To support efficient and useful access of information, get involved with the current portal owners in a content and tagging audit. You will become an expert in helping others learn how to find the information they need or contribute to collaborative efforts (some of those networked skills). You will also be able to suggest ways of structuring content and social tags. One simple example is involvement in conversations on the effectiveness of "Ask Me About" tags in your social portal. If you are going to help connect the right people, small things like this need to be accurate and consistent. 

3) Search Design. The learning concierge knows how important an effective search is on a employee portal. If you are going to connect people, information, and locations, while fostering team and community collaboration, effective search is crucial to the success of your efforts. People find, document searches, hashtag searches, community/team searches. If your portal doesn't provide fast, accurate and effective results, your job will be a lot harder. 

4) Adoption and Use. For me and others where I work, adoption is not about getting everyone logging into a system because they have to: it's about the value employees find from their technology. If you are considering the benefits of your portal to support social learning and collaboration, this is another conversation that needs you input. Locked down systems, no mobile access, multiple logins, and the above points 1-3 can discourage use of a portal. Talk to communications and IT (although you may not see eye to eye). I have found that learning opportunities - whether social communities, challenges, team building exercises for remote workers, and others - are a great way to show the value in (and increase engagement in) a portal. But the portal has to be easily accessible first!