When implementing social media strategies for training, dont
leave your frontline workers behind.
As learning professionals, nearly every day we hear about exciting
new ideas or applications concerning the use of digital media and
collaborative tools in the workplace. Emerging social and mobile
channels are fertile grounds for trainingand the potential is
limited only by our imagination. However, there is one segment of
the workforce for which use of these tools is not so easy:
frontline customer service employees.
Advantages to using social and mobile tools
Social and digital media can be used to publish training modules,
field coaching messages, and enable instant employee communication.
They can enhance training delivery, provide information in a
just-in-time environment, and host internal networking platformsall
of which help to drive employee productivity and performance.
There are many benefits to using social media tools in a customer
service environment. Collaboration and knowledge sharing can
benefit employees as they explore customer solutions in real time.
Additionally, the ability to work and grow as a team is enhanced as
employees learn from one another. There is also collective
organizational power in combining resources and knowledge that may
not be integrated otherwise. Extending circles of expertise can
provide productivity advantages and is an effective way to increase
engagement and a sense of teamwork.
Unfortunately, too often frontline employees in customer service
roles do not have the opportunity to reap these benefits. Many of
these workers are paid hourly, which presents employers with
obstacles to providing social media and collaborative tools for
trainingespecially if employees cannot receive compensation when
using these tools outside of normal business hours. Overtime wages
are expensive and stopping in the middle of a customer transaction
is not appropriate.
How do you reap the benefits of social knowledge sharing and
collaboration without breaking the training budget or requiring the
use of employees personal portable devices? The following social
media tools and methods are easy to adopt, are practical, and can
occur either in a formal class or in between customer transactions,
making them viable training options for frontline workers.
Create a social network for your frontline workers
While it may not be practical to provide new devices to employees
or authorize overtime hours for learning at home, you may already
have access to the tools necessary to get started. Talk to your IT
department about what is available to you. Many new software
packages and freeware offerings that have emerged in the past few
years are capable of acting as platforms for social media and
collaborative work. Such online platforms include Moodle,
SharePoint, and Yammer, just to name a few.
Once you have identified your platform, you will want to create a
plan for incorporating social applications. Some of the most
practical applications you can use for collaboration and learning
- learning blogs
- discussion starters
- instant message (IM) or chat
- activity applications such as team building, icebreakers, and
Implement social media methods
To implement a strategy for using social media applications for
learning, you must first understand the benefits of each
Learning blog. Blogs are one of the most widely used tools for
social networking and can be excellent informal discussion
channels. Learning blogs can help employees to engage in
conversations with teammates and expand understanding around
difficult processes, or provide employees with informal techniques
for handling customer issues.
The key to success with a learning blog is to help employees feel
comfortable with this type of communication from the start. It can
be a great medium to introduce a new employee to networking
opportunities within the work group and learning collaboration for
improved job performance.
Learning blogs can be general in nature or topic-specific. With
some guidance and direction, a facilitator can focus the learning
content to keep the blog organized, yet organica forum that builds
knowledge and teamwork simultaneously.
Discussion starters. Discussion starters are modified blogs that
provide clear expectations for training participants. Similar to
the learning blog, but with even more guidance and focus,
discussion starters can be of great benefit inside or outside the
classroom. They are a widely used method for collaboration in
online learning environments, but they can work just as well for
classroom and on-the-job training.
Many customer service centers require extensive new hire training
programs that can last several days or even weeks. A discussion
starter within a blog can help to jump-start the collaboration
process and uncover responses and additional questions that
participants did not pose during a lecture. Set a specific time
each day for employees to explore the starter questions and to
respond (preferably a time that is convenient for the frontline
worker). Require participation for training completion and
establish a collaborative pattern for employees to follow long
after the program is complete.
Glossaries. A glossary can be another positive tool to engage
employees in the learning process and cultivate a collaborative
environment. Simply create a list of key terms and phrases for
participants to master. Ask employees to describe or expand upon
these work-related terms. This method is comparable to a
"teach-back" and helps the employee to retain the material and
share thoughts and questions. Participants can use multiple colors
to indicate glossary updates, and the facilitator can jump in if
the discussion gets off track.
IM or chat. In many instances, a customer service employee may not
have the ability to physically interact with the person next to
him, or a remote mentor or colleague. The chat function provides
the employee with an additional avenue for collaboration. This tool
is also flexible, allowing employees to receive and send messages
when it suits their workload and schedule. While this may not be a
practical option if an employee needs information immediately, it
is an effective way to build relationships and communicate
information that is not time-sensitive.
Activity applications. Many of the social media platforms available
today have functions that can be used for learning, while
simultaneously injecting a little collaborative fun into the
training environment or workplace. Consider using your platform for
internal social networking by creating fun quizzes or polls about
training topics. Build basic charts and statistics to share
responses with the whole group.
An internal social media platform also can be used for icebreakers
and photo directories, to help team members become acquainted with
one another during, or even after, training sessions. Build surveys
or evaluations to get a feel for the participants comfort levels
with certain topics, and determine to which material employees
prefer to devote extra review or special focus.
In an environment where information is constantly changing and
frontline employees are asked to keep up with knowledge overload
and process replacement, workers can benefit from new tools to
share knowledge and collaborate, and have fun while doing so. Your
imagination and the brief time required to build a network are the
only limitations to this endeavorand the added teamwork and
performance improvement are well worth the investment.