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ADED 4: Communicating in the Workplace

A large multi-site non-profit organization is looking for ways to better connect their 2000 employees for communication purposes and collective learning
by

Jenna Smith

on 29 March 2011

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Transcript of ADED 4: Communicating in the Workplace

Communicating
in the
Workplace Agenda Description of the Problem A large multi-site non-profit organization is looking for ways to better connect their 2000 employees for communication purposes and collective learning. The organization’s work-sites are spread across the province. Within work-sites, the majority of employees work shifts and staff may not see each regularly. While all work-sites have computers, based on the type of work, employees do not usually do a significant amount of computer-based work as part of their normal work day. The majority of employees within the organization, approximately 80%, are not in management positions. Management spends more time at computers and have more opportunities to interact with employees from other work-sites. All employees have e-mail addresses. Employees range in age from 20 to 65. Distribution across age is not equal, the largest cohort is between 40 and 50 (representing employees hired several years ago at a time of significant growth); the next largest group is between 20 and 25 (representing employees who work for the organization while going to school or prior to moving onto another career). Many employees have been with the organization for a long time (e.g., greater than 10 years), often in the same position. It is not uncommon to meet employees who have been with the organization for over 20 years. Employees work in teams; however, traditionally these have been “work teams” (Raelin, 2008) focused on productivity and service, not learning. Members of each team are interdependent on each other to successfully achieve the organization’s mission. Work teams consist of 10-15 people and one manager. Each work team generally comes together for meetings every 4-6 weeks, which includes sharing memos and other communication from the corporate office, discussion location-specific challenges, and reviewing relevant policies and procedures. While all work teams do similar work, there are few opportunities for employees from different work-sites to interact. Employees from different work-sites are not interdependent, but as they perform similar work, have experience and knowledge that may benefit other teams. Internal communication has been identified as an opportunity for improvement on recent employee satisfaction surveys. This includes access to timely information for all employees and opportunities for two-way communication between the corporate office and work-sites. Current corporate office internal communication strategies include: (1) written memos sent by paper using a courier system to all locations or electronically using e-mail to all work-sites; (2) oral communication that flows down verbally through the layers of management, (3) and sharing information via the internal web-page to which all employees have access. The majority of information flows from top to bottom. Upper Management is supportive of learning between work-sites, but is unclear of how to go about changing the current opportunities to lead to improvement in this area. Upper Management would like to link the perceived need for improved communication systems with creating an organization more focused on learning together both within and across work-sites. Currently, work-site managers are the forum to share ideas, success stories, practical solutions, etc between work-sites and this is not always effective as Managers have a number of responsibilities which can differ from the focus of other employees. Upper Management would like to see the implementation of a system that would empower employees to interact with each other to seek solutions and best practices that can be implemented at their specific work-site. The Action Learning Team, led by members of the Employee Education Department, has been asked to identify a learning management system that meets two objectives (1) sharing information, such as memos, updates, etc.; and (2) will provide employees with a platform for collective learning through a web-based learning and experience/knowledge sharing system. What is an LMS? A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content (Learning Management System, n.d.)
To try a free online LMS, please visit: http://moodle.org/ Allan & Lewis in their study of nursing who participated in a virtual learning community, noted that membership offered new opportunities for collaboration and enabled participants to learning and working at a time and place that suited their individual preferences.


Communities of Practice whether face-to-face or web-based offer opportunities for two-way flow of information (Sauve, 2007). Benefits of an LMS
“Virtual learning communities provide an opportunity for individuals with a common purpose to come together across barriers in time and space” (Lewis & Allan, 2005)
Can access from any computer, not just from their work-site
Access to employees beyond their own work-site
Employees have access to information at the same time as their managers, as all memos, etc. will be posted in the LMS.
As participation in on-line discussions, etc. is not required; employees can choose which themes they want to participate in, making learning more self-directed.
When employees have access to all discussion and discourse, they can also see the thoughts and ideas of those in leadership positions, enabling them to challenge those ideas and perspectives when they do not align with front-line employee’s experiences.
Passive participation still valuable (Brookfield, 2006).
Can serve as a knowledge retention system as well. Collective Learning

Collective learning similar to collaborative learning, both can occur any time people gather together.
For a collective learning environment to thrive, leaders must be committed to learning and value the idea of being a learning organization (Senge, 2006) Prior to implementing the LMS for collective learning the following themes should be considered:
The important role trust plays in collective learning;
The role of leadership in any change and in fostering a learning culture;
Impact of employee age on change and technology uptake;
How adult learning techniques to enhance the experience for participants Importance of Trust

Trust has also been identified as the foundation to effective teams in work settings (Lencioni, 2002).
Building trust in teams and on-line communities may take a significant amount of time. Role of Leadership

Leaders can influence employees’ perception and response to change by getting employees involved in the change process.
“Change agents” (peers involved in leading the change) help others learn to work together in new and different ways.
Engaging employees means that leaders need to advocate power, which can be challenging in some organizations.
Leadership can show support by ensuring the required technology is available and acknowledging the time commitment required by those who participate (Allan & Lewis, 2006). Worker Diversity (i.e., Generations in the Workplace)

Research has shown that millennials find social media a more useful learning tool than generation X workers or baby boomers (Ketter, 2010).
Madsen, Miller & John (2005) observed that older employees were more committed to their organization and also more open to change.
Some generations work to live, while others live to work, which can influence their willingness to stay late and/or pursue learning on their own time (Generational Difference Chart) – could be important if time for participation in the collective learning settings is not incorporated into existing work schedules. Incorporating Adult Learning Techniques

Employees are in control of their learning and can immediately apply concepts and theories-Experiential Learning
“In a learning organization, the company doesn’t ‘force employees to learn, but creates a context in which they will want to learn’ ” (Raelin, 2008).
Employees have full access to resources, discussion forums and can email other staff for advice or suggestions Additional Literature to Consider

Role of the facilitator/moderator in on-line settings
Features of a web-based learning management system that are most effective at fostering collective learning
Availability of technology & tech support required to ensure smooth implementation
Project management of LMS and discussions Role of Employee Education Department Considered by others to be most knowledgeable with respect to workplace learning
Will lead Action Learning Team made up of employees from all levels
Responsible to oversee implementation and on-going maintenance of LMS Challenges Availability and Access of computers
Buy in from management
Clear expectation of involvement online
Financial Implications
Participation from all employees
Research and selecting an LMS Impact Employees all on the same page all have access to timely communication and inforamtion at the same time
Ability to communicate to all members of the organization
Flexibility in terms of access, when to contribute, how to contribute, time to reflect before contributing
Opportunities for employees from all level to participate in discussions
An organization more focused on learning together
Sharing experience and expertise will result in more consistent high quality services across all sites
Contribute leads to engagement & motivation (Pink, 2009) Results
Staff are informed
Employee engagement increases
Learning shared across organization (e.g., levels, geography, etc.) Possible Unexpected Results Upper management better understands the experiences of front line employees
More computers/technology in the workplace
More employees engage in continuing education because comfortable with an LMS Through this project, we (Jenna & Megan) have begun to ask the bigger question of whether or not an LMS the solution to the articulated problems.
See article for more on this idea…


http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/2010/05/what-is-the-future-of-the-lms.html Effectiveness of an LMS Reflecting on the Process More ideas: the synergistic benefit of sharing ideas and literature review
Two different workplaces to draw on real world challenges and solutions
Struggled with the fact that the ideas presented in Raelin with respect to Action Learning Projects, is not exactly what we are doing… We are making up a problem Appreciated feedback that people provided, directed us in new ways and emphasized ways we were on the right track
The Survey Monkey was great for the Yes/No questions, but perhaps could have used the “forum” for other feedback as there was a delay in timely responses
A small class meant limited amount of feedback – only had 3 responses to Survey Monkey Questionnaire Reflection on Class Feedback Benefits of Group Work Variety of ideas due to unique experiences and perspectives
More literature could be reviewed in time period
Oppurtuntiy to discuss ideas with another person
Ability to divide up work Challenges of Group Work Working online
Rubrics based on oral presentations in an online setting
Unable to clearly clarify expectations with instructor
Working with others you have never met
Timeframes - communication relies on how much others check their e-mail Impact of Benefits and Challenges on the Final Product Time spent clarifying back and forth between group members and with instructor meant fewer issues could be considered
Unable to discuss information and approaches in-depth, due to challenges associated with asynchronous communication
Feedback of classmates allowed for us to consider different angles we had not incorporated
Not a clear direction, a bit unknown at times while waiting for an e-mail response from your partner and/or facilitator Course Content that Spoke to Us Creativity
Not always a big idea, everyday ideas that led to great outcomes (i.e., a great final assignment); (see Watson, 2007) Conflict
Can be influenced by group members' comfort level with each other and understanding how the other person works, this was a strength for us given our history as learning partners in previous courses
We were relieved when 3rd group member dropped out, as felt reduced possible conflict and challenges with completing the assignment Power & Influence
We are both on the same level, both in our workplace roles, our experience with Adult Education, etc.; so official power was not a issue
Both have similar workplace experiences so helped narrow path on the subject
Awareness of and respect for one another’s strengths meant we would defer to the person with the expertise to influence some decisions (e.g., technological skills) Managerialist Better, more skilled employees
Reduce Manager workload by providing employees at all levels with access to information and expertise from others.
More empowered employees=happier employees, which leads to reduced turnover and therefore reduced costs associated with hiring and orientation.
Save money because employees do not travel to connect with others across the province Awareness of who moderates discussion and how managers could influence
Sawchuk (2003) talks about who adult learning theoris and how social class (e.g., the perspective of the working class) shapes computer learning. The technological underclass not about availability of equipment or peoples’ cognitive abilities, but their access to stable communities that recognize and build on the standpoints of their members.
The Employee Education team can use their indirect power to influence content, the moderators, and the selection of an LMS as they are seen as experts and their opinion is respected by upper management.
If AE provides leadership to overseeing content and discussions can reduce potential for management to utilize their power and authority to control what is discussed by participants. Critical Perspective vs. Literature Review Maybe the Wrong Solution...? Reflecting... Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice whether face-to-face or web-based offer opportunities for two-way flow of information (Sauve, 2007).
An online community of practice enables participants to read, submit and receive advice and feedback from the community to the extent that they wish.
Those who choose to participate in a strictly receptive manner (i.e. only reading) can still gain knowledge and skills from the communal resources, which is especially valuable to beginning practitioners
An opportunity to learn from veteran colleagues beyond their immediate geographic area through observation and absorption of information and dialogue. Action Plan Communication Megan's Perspective

Group work continues to be a challenge for me, and this project was no exception. In fact the group work was made even more challenging due to the fact that work was done via a web-based forum. In the past I have found the opportunities for face-to-face dialogue and discussion that occurs when doing a group project to be the most beneficial aspect and the part that results in a better end product. A product that is greater than the sum of its parts. I think the end product in the situation was not nearly as great as it could have been as asynchronous e-mail or on-line discussions meant everything took longer to figure out, sometimes results in a division of tasks rather than a collaborative product.

The process of presenting the project to the group and seeking formative feedback was very beneficial. In addition to the specific feedback we received on our project, seeing what others were doing helped verify that we were on the right track. Unfortunately, as in any setting, not all members of a group or class feel comfortable formally contributing to the feedback process. Some of the ways the formative feedback process impacted me, and indirectly our final project, are: adding in links to websites after seeing Brock & Paul’s presentation, directing us to look at literature we had not considered, challenging us to think about how to present all the details necessary to help others understand the project when verbal dialogue is not possible, emphasized how much of an auditory learner I am, and expanded my definition of ‘presentation’.

This Action Learning Project experience has been unique and provided me with a new appreciation for group work, group work in on-line settings, and diversity in learning styles. As this was a new experience for me, I knew it was going to be a challenge but also an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Over the course of this class, I realized that completing a group project online was going to be more of a challenge than I thought. The idea of clarifying everything through forums and not being able to meet in person with your partner was difficult. It was hard to get ideas and points across while validating information through an e-mail. In a classroom setting, you are able to have an in depth conversation and discuss project details while being able to clarify information with your facilitator. In an online setting, we did not have the opportunity to go as in depth as we could have due to the setting.
However, while this was a challenging experience, there were also positives and opportunities to grow. Being partners with Megan was very beneficial. With this pre-existing relationship, as we had been previous Learning Partners, we knew how each other worked, our strengths and weaknesses and overall our ability to work together would assist us again. Additionally, the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from our classmates allowed us to explore options we did not consider which assisted us in our research and overall presentation. Furthermore, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to try new approaches and methods to complete an assignment. Jenna's Reflection References Advantages of Experiential Learning. (n.d.). Wide Aware: Outdoor Adventure for all. Retrieved February 15, 2011, fromhttp://wide-aware.com/benefits-of-experiential-learning/

Allan, B., & Lewis, D. (2006). Virtual learning communities as a vehicle for workforce development: A case study. The Journal of Workplace Learning, 18 (6), 367-383.

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. P. (2006). Experiential learning: a best practice handbook for educators and trainers (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

Bratton, J., Helms Mills, J., Pyrch, T. & Sawchuk, P. (2004). Workplace Learning: A critical introduction. Aurora, ON: Garamond Press Ltd.

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Chin-Shan, W., Cheng, F., Yen, D. C., & Huang, Y. (2010). User acceptance of wireless technology in organizations: A comparison of alternative models. Computer Standards & Interfaces, 33(1), 50-58.

Cruikshank, J. (2008) Lifelong learning and the new economy: Limitations of a market model. International Journal of Lifelong Learning, 27 (1), 51-69.

Ellinger, A., & Cseh, M. (2007). Contextual factors influencing the facilitation of others’ learning through everyday work experiences. Journal of Workplace Learning 19(7), 435-452.

Generational Difference Chart. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2011, fromhttp://www.wmfc.org/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

Grimes-Viort, B. (2010, April 9). How to build trust in your online community: 8 key points. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from Social Media Today: http://socialmediatoday.com/index.php?q=SMC/187843

Ketter, P. (2010, December). Six trends that will change workplace learning forever. T+D, 34-40.

Kim, H., & Cervero, R.M. (2007). How power relations structure the evaluation process for HRD progrommes. Human Resource Development International, 10 (1), 5-20.

Learning management system - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_management_system

Lencioni, P. (2002). Five dysfunctions of a team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lewis, D., & Allan, B. (2005). Virtual learning communities a guide for practitioners. maidenhead: open university press.

Madsen, S. R., Miller, D., & John, C. R. (2005). Readiness for organizational change: Do organizational commitment and social relationships in the workplace make a difference? Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16 (2), 213-233.

McCrindle, M. (2006). New generations at work attracting, recruiting, retraining & training Generation Y. Baulkham Hills, N.S.W.: McCrindle Research.

Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Raelin, J. A. (2008). Work-based learning: Bridging knowledge and action in the workplace. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Sauve, E. (2007, March). Informal knowledge transfer. T+D, 22-24.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.

Sitzmann, T., Bell, B. S., Ely, K., & Bauer, K. N. (2010). The Effects of Technical Difficulties on Learning and Attrition During. Journal of Experimental Psychology: applied, 16(3), 281-292.

Sawchuck, P. H. (2003) Adult learning and technology in working-class life. New York: Cambridge University Press

The Benefits of Learning Management Systems to a Business. (n.d.). EzineArticles Submission - Submit Your Best Quality Original Articles For Massive Exposure, Ezine Publishers Get 25 Free Article Reprints. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Benefits-of-Learning-Management-Systems-to-a-Business&id=2928490

Watson, E. (2007). Who or what creates? A conceptual framework for social creatively. Human Resrouce Development Review. 6 (4); 419-441. 1. Learn about the Problem
2. LMS - Definition and Benefits
3. Review the Relevant Literature
4. Role of Employee Education Dept.
5. Proposed Action Plan
6. Consider the Outcomes
7. Theories Considered
8. Reflecting...
9. References Financial
“Organizations are drawn to online training in an attempt to cut costs and create material that can be delivered anytime, anywhere, and tailored to meet individual needs” (Sitzmann, Bell, Ely & Bauer, 2010)
Productivity is higher because employees can participate in discussions from their work location so travel time and days away from the work-site are not required.
There are a number of free LMS systems available. Theories Considered Power & Adult Education
Politics is part of all workplaces and all learning (Brookfield, 2006)
Workplace Education Departments need to be aware of how their positions influence others, even when they do not exlicit power as a result of their postions being outside the hierarchical organizational structure.
Workplace Educators can influence what is included, how it is presented, and the evaluation process (Kim & Cervero, 2007). Thank You!
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