You’re Missing The Boat If It’s Not Part Of Your Learning Strategy.
By Linda Galloway
When Andi Campbell joined LAZ Parking in 2010 as director of learning and development, she started with a blank slate. The company had few learning resources and no consistent strategy for grooming new managers — a key business imperative, given the company’s rapid growth and commitment to hiring from within. The company’s 7,500+ parking employees, most of whom work out of 1,900 parking locations across the country, had no way to access learning resources or collaborate with each other. Many did not even have corporate emails, although most had personal cell phones.
In less than two years, Campbell found ways to dramatically strengthen employee engagement, improve manager collaboration and processes, and build a pipeline of high- potentials for new management opportunities capable of sustaining the company’s growth — all with minimal financial investment and staff support.
Campbell, who is now vice president of human resources, cites three key ingredients for success:
1 a business-aligned strategy with buy-in from all senior executive;
2 the implementation of an integrated LMS and social networking platform that was very easy to administer and use, was designed to manage all types of resources, including video, and offered an excellent mobile experience; and
3 a reliance on content curation to build out the company’s learning resources and provide a dynamic learning experience for all employees.
Campbell’s team regularly seeks out podcasts, TED Talks, YouTube videos, and other web-curated content to add to the LAZ U Learning Center and to share on the company’s two social networks: LAZ Na- tion Tribe, open to all LAZ employees, and LAZ Parking Manager Tribe, for current managers and executives and those involved in management development. These resources are complemented with inter- nally-created learning objects on topics such as leadership development, business processes and acumen and professional development; monthly virtual, instructor-led classes on a variety of actionable topics, most of which are conducted by company executives and managers; and select purchased courses (on Microsoft Office training, for example).
Campbell is one of many executives recognizing the valuable role of content curation for learning and development and for fostering employee engagement. When content curation is incorporated into a learning strategy, learning organizations save time and dollars, better keep pace with ever-evolving learning needs and business change, offer more relevant, personalized experiences for diverse employee audiences — and gain some much-needed street cred as business and topic experts.
In general, content curation is the process of collecting, organizing and sharing information relevant to a particular topic, an area of interest and a specific audience. In his book “Curation Nation,” Steve Rosenbaum talks about a three-legged stool for effective content curation: gathering links and articles from the Web, which are then filtered for relevance and quality; inviting others to share their own content; and supplementing curated content with your own content.
Curated content can be used as resources affiliated with a formal learning program; for discussions and assignments in a coaching program; to keep employees and peers up to date on relevant business events; to capitalize on internal subject matter expertise; for sharing winning best practices. And that’s just for starters.
While we all curate content to some extent (sharing that New York Times article on Facebook or Twitter counts), professional content curation requires a range of learned skills spanning online research, analytics, technology, informa- tion organization and communication. Curators must have a solid understanding of the topics involved in research, so they can discern relevance and quality and can add meaning-ful context to curated resources. Curators should also have an understanding of the law, ethics and business best prac- tices for content sharing. And, because part of the job should involve encouraging content sharing and commenting from others, curators need to understand the human dynamics involved in information sharing and collaboration.
Following are several basic considerations to keep in mind as you begin to formalize the role of content curator and incorporate shared content into your learning strategy:
>> Always add context to shared content. Don’t throw out a bunch of article links, podcasts, or Power- Points and expect employees to automatically relate the information to their jobs or the business.
>> Vary the content you share in terms of content type, source, length and perspective. It’s also a good idea to mix up evergreen content — that which doesn’t go quickly out of date — with news-based content, which typically has a relatively short shelf life. Be sure to include in your content mix internally created content and imagery. By varying content, you’ll establish yourself as someone who has a pulse on the business or particular topics — and you’ll keep your audiences interested.
>> Filter content for quality and relevance. This is hugely important and one of the primary values of effective content curation. By demon- strating that you know your audience’s needs and interests, you’re saving everyone the time of doing their own wide Web searches, asking around for that sales deck everyone has been talking about, or digging through manuals to find an answer to a customer’s technical question. By focusing on quality content, you’re also establishing yourself as an informed authority.
>> Take advantage of content discovery, aggregation and filtering tools. Many free or inexpensive tools can help you find, filter and even organize content finds. Google, Feedly, Newsly, Scoop.it and IFTTT are just a few ex- amples. The right combination of tools depends on your goals and needs. Some tools even automate the sharing of content. It may take you a couple of hours to evaluate the offerings and do the re- quired set up, but you’ll save hours and find content you’d likely never discover on your own.
>> Make sure your enterprise technology facilitates all aspects of content sharing. Ideally, your LMS and social learning platform make it easy to upload any kind of content — including videos — and don’t restrict who can share. (If upload and sharing rights are avail- able only to administrators, you’ll not be successful in creating a sharing culture.) Additionally, your solutions should make it easy for us- ers to find and filter shared content of all types.
>> Make it mobile. As you’re planning your content curation and sharing strategy, be sure you include a way to offer an optimized mobile experience for your users. And you yourself will want to have the ability to share newly discovered content from anywhere, at anytime.
This article merely scratches the surface of what is sure to be a very important role for learning organizations in the coming years. Don’t miss the boat. Make content curation — including the development of a content cu- ration strategy and the identification of individuals responsible for managing and performing content curation. — a priority for your organization.
—The author is president of insidHR Communications, a consultancy focused on the corporate learning and HR markets.