Learning innovation isn’t fashionable or fun. It’s a business necessity driven by globalization, disruptive technologies, changing marketplaces and evolving workforce needs.
Like most companies, Xerox increasingly relies on the expertise of our workforce for business results. Learning plays a critical role in enabling the business, so we are continually introducing new high-impact learning practices that drive global workforce capability. Key priorities include finding ways to integrate learning with work, and making the transition from delivering training to building a culture of learning, in which our people take ownership for their own learning and development, aligned with Xerox business direction.
It’s common for business leaders to talk about organizational transformation and empowering the workforce. Business jargon aside, Xerox really is transforming itself. The company has a long history of innovation in technology, and now also in business services. With the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) in 2010, Xerox moved aggressively beyond document technology and into business process and I.T. outsourcing. At the time of the acquisition, Xerox had 54,000 employees, while ACS had 74,000 — more than doubling the Xerox global workforce. We now have more than 140,000 people in more than 160 countries, in a very wide range of job assignments. That’s clearly a complex global enterprise with diverse learning needs.
To address those needs, Xerox operates an enterprise learning ecosystem, called Learning@Xerox. It includes LMS and LCMS functionality, a virtual classroom platform, a streaming media service, and a variety of performance support and collaborative learning services. All of these resources are available to the global workforce through a sophisticated, SharePoint based global portal that leverages Web parts to target different workforce populations. The portal provides push and pull learning from PCs and tablets, alongside a skinny interface optimized for smartphones. Learning@Xerox is a scalable ecosystem with a single access point to industry-leading solutions for custom content, acquired content, and user-generated content. But that’s where the story just starts to get interesting.
SUN NEVER SETS
In a global enterprise, the sun never sets on the workforce. When operating around the world, organizations have an employee mix, from office dwellers to digital nomads, and with people in every business context in between. Regardless of time zone and geographic location, successful employees must be able to work efficiently and effectively, and thus learn continuously, whether from a customer location, an office, a coffee shop, or on the move. The evolution from working in an office, to working virtual, to working on the move very much parallels the evolution from learning in a classroom, to e-learning, to mobile learning. Consider as well, the progression from andragogy to heutagogy and the notion of truly self-determined learning to pursue the self-directed development of individual capability. Beyond learning content consumption that occurs on the move, learning content contribution across an interconnected workforce will become increasingly important.
More than ever, business results depend on shared expertise across an interconnected, global workforce, transcending organizational silos, to operate as a truly global company. The new normal for getting work done requires integrating learning with work and deploying evolving technology, and new processes and practices to bridge working and learning, as well as connecting remote colleagues and customers. Given this progress, can learning and development organizations be solely responsible for meeting the needs of increasingly large and complex global enterprises?
LEARNING’S EMERGING ROLE
It should not be an excuse, but rather a reality we must acknowledge: L&D organizations can’t realistically provide all of the learning content and resources needed across all aspects of a complex business. Therefore, an emerging role of learning professionals is to cultivate and curate workforce knowledge sharing, putting people in the spotlight to show what they know, to share with a global community, and to take the lead. The current and future workplace provides fewer opportunities for colleagues to huddle around the filing cabinet to quickly exchange vital business information, where so much on-the-job learning and sharing occurs. Given this, what can learning professionals do to facilitate a virtual experience for workforce knowledge sharing?
To do so, Xerox has deployed a platform specifically for learning video called Xstream Video. Like a YouTube experience within the enterprise, it allows our people to quickly upload user-generated video, and then comment, rate, and collaborate around that content. Quick, on-demand access is critical. It must be accessible from any PC, tablet or smartphone, for both consumption and contribution of content. Xstream Video is a key component of our mobile learning strategy, in which mobile learning must also be focused on creating a connected workforce and not just about providing access for content consumption for those on the move. Thus, it enables the easy upload and sharing of user-generated video and SME-generated video, alongside professionally developed video as you would typically expect from a learning and development organization.
Cultivating user-generated content (UGC) for workforce knowledge sharing is absolutely critical when building a culture of learning. The best user-generated video is often short, informal, quickly-made, and created by the knowledgeable people closest to the real work. It shares information about a problem to be solved or solution to be copied. This video can be captured using the camera on a smartphone, or tablet or a webcam — whatever camera is convenient. A new, defining characteristic is that video production quality is much less a concern than high-quality content with business relevance and impact.
We are finding that UGC can improve business performance by increasing employee engagement, by surfacing innovation, and by speeding the adoption of successful strategies. UGC helps us foster a culture of rapid sharing of business intelligence and skills for a more agile response to global customers and markets. We conducted a pilot several years ago and found that short, modular video was the most sought-after content type by our people working in the field, especially on smartphones. Further, our people did not want traditional eLearning on their smartphones, which guided our strategy to focus on video.
Over the past 18 months, our Xstream Video deployment has continued to mature. Now, this learning process is being used successfully on a number of targeted business initiatives, as well as for general knowledge sharing. Senior leaders now use learning video to share content that might otherwise have been packaged as e-learning. And individual employees actively share information back, as their own video contribution, reinforcing and extending that content and business intelligence from the bottom up.
ASSESSING THE APPROACH
A major question around UGC and informal learning is how to track the value of investments and learning effectiveness in these areas. Our success criteria for performance support-oriented services like Xstream Video involves monitoring utilization, stickiness, content quantity, and content quality. Utilization asks the question: Are people coming?, wherein we look at the number of users and videos in the system. Stickiness asks the question: Are people staying and coming back?, so we look at the number of videos accessed per session and the ratio of new users versus repeat users. Content quantity looks at the question: Are people contributing, such as uploading video, as well as collaborating? As a measure of success, we look at the ratio of user-generated video compared to professionally developed video. By the end of 2013, a full year after launch, more than 30 percent of the content was user-generated, which met our Year One target. By the end of 2015, however, we’re aiming to have 70 percent user-generated video, because we believe there is a lot of untapped business value opportunity. Accordingly, content quality obviously looks at the question: Do people’s contributions have business value? This one is a bit tricky to objectively measure, but we look at the percentage of content with a four-out-of-five-star rating or higher, and the percentage of content with user comments as a gauge.
While user-generated resources are increasingly important, Xerox does actively develop custom content, deployed as e-learning or performance support via our learning content management system (LCMS). Each year, we deploy approximately 1,000 e-learning courses or custom learning content modules. In 2013, 52 percent of this content was “new” while 48 percent was updated or refreshed to keep our Learning@Xerox LMS catalog fresh. Even here, though, innovation is a necessity. In 2013, of all the new or updated custom content in our LCMS, 49 percent was developed to be tablet-friendly to support the consumption of formal, tracked content while on the move, another component of our mobile learning strategy. Mobile compatibility requires stopping the use of authoring tools like Adobe Flash, in favor of using… wait for it… video.
To further integrate learning with work, our learning professionals can use embed tag functionality from the Xstream Video streaming media service to embed video within courseware and referenceware in our LCMS, accessible via PC, tablet or smartphone. This gives instructional designers the flexibility to leverage informal user-generated video, alongside professionally developed video within learning solutions that are tracked by the LMS. For us, the evolution of e-learning includes the ability to stitch together modular content from a number of content services: custom content in the LCMS, user-generated content, and off the-shelf content, primarily provided by Skillsoft. As learning needs emerge, we can quickly combine the diverse resources needed to address them into trackable, managed offerings.
In short, it is critical to keep the workforce at the center of all we do. This means enabling high-impact learning across a diverse workforce in a broad range of job assignments and work arrangements. This is accomplished by providing a seamless learner experience and enabling workforce knowledge sharing and collaboration alongside more traditional learning solutions. Our continued focus on integrating learning with work and building a culture of learning ensures that the Xerox workforce is ready to bring value to our customers and ensures we are prepared as a global enterprise: Ready for real business.
Steven Rath Morgan directs global learn- ing process and drives learning innovation to build a stronger global workforce, aligned with Xerox vision, values and business direc- tion. He is responsible for enterprise learning process strategy, governance, content and solutions in partnership with multiple L&D organizations and lines of business. He’s been with Xerox for 14 years.