Rather than attempt to launch social learning for the entire enterprise, which includes roughly 20,000 employees, ASM launched a narrowly focused pilot project within its business development team and carefully aligned it with the organization’s learning and talent management needs.
The company wanted to add a social learning component to its pre-existing Accelerated Career Excellence in Sales (ACES) program. The ACES program selects qualified individuals with little or no sales experience and places them in a five-month accelerated learning program to become business development managers. Participants come together for an initial two-day classroom session and then return to their home markets. They spend the next five months working in the field with designated mentors and completing e-learning modules.
It was determined that the ongoing informal learning module must align with the other components of the program and match the initiative’s following overall goals:
- Accelerate the new employee’s time to competence.
- Increase employee retention.
- Increase the number of candidates promoted to junior business development managers.
ASM became a pilot customer for Cornerstone OnDemand’s enterprise social networking platform, Cornerstone Connect, which supplements the organization’s LMS suite with social media tools, such as status updates, conversation threads, Q&A, user ratings and a document repository. During the five-month program, the participants use the social learning platform for daily peer-to-peer interaction with fellow learners, mentors across the nation and senior sales leadership.
Lisa Choi, national manager of talent development for ASM, said most conversation threads are initiated by the development associates, who tend to be digitally native millennials.
“However, once a conversation begins, the program’s mentors — primarily boomers and Gen Xers — will quickly join the conversation and offer their advice,” she added.
Choi also said the social learning platform has created a blend of company-initiated and individual-initiated learning. One development associate proactively contacted all of the ACES mentors for best practices on a specific topic. He then compiled this data into a document and shared it with the entire community.
In this way, ASM’s younger employees are leveraging their comfort with social media to reshape corporate learning and knowledge sharing. As Choi put it, “We’re all learning together.”
Unlike traditional learning management systems, where managers can generate course completion reports and post-test scores, social learning platforms require an ongoing community-focused mindset. Measuring the health of the social learning platform requires the ASM project team to look at a set of questions that assesses the activity and health of the community:
- How many conversations were opened, and who started them?
- Which topics generated the most interest?
- How many comments appeared, and who replied?
- Which topics have questions left unanswered?
The social learning platform has accelerated the candidates’ ability to create connections with their peers in other markets. According to Bethany Slentz, an ACES candidate and development associate, “The social learning platform allows us to make mistakes, learn together and build camaraderie.”
Slentz also recognizes the value of being able to connect with senior leadership early in her career.
“The social learning platform accelerated my ability to integrate with the company,” she said. “We are able to build trust and camaraderie that goes beyond a traditional boss-employee role.”Filed under: Leadership Development