Hack traditional learning, embrace digital

Hacked

Well hello there, I’m back! Truth is, I’d never really gone away but I had taken a side-step from my blog whilst I reflected on things, re-evaluated and sharpened my saw.

To mark digital learning day I originally wrote this post for our website on behalf of our learning and development team. We are taking steps to hack our education here at Bromford – something 13 year old Logan Laplante talks about brilliantly in this TEDx talk from 2013 (please spare yourself 11 minutes to watch this and be inspired by Logan’s story of why he quit traditional education to be home schooled by his mom.)

The way we deliver our learning to colleagues has gone through some changes, something not everyone reading this will be aware of. Traditionally classroom delivery was favoured but as our organisation has grown the difficulty of achieving this when you have around 1200 employees was becoming more and more apparent.

As digital and social learning grew around us we wanted to piggyback on this opportunity and have a slice of this for ourselves. And Be.Bromford was that very opportunity.

Be.Bromford is our own learning platform that’s built by, and for, our colleagues and their learning journey begins with us way before they’ve even popped on their name badge for the first time!

We give successfully recruited candidates access to our Onboarding site (which sits within Be.Bromford) up to four weeks before their start date and this allows them to see and hear, first hand, what it’s really like to work at Bromford. They will hear from colleagues and senior leaders through video and written article pages, and understand our expectations of them and what it takes to really embrace our special culture.

The Onboarding process does a really good job of speeding up the induction period but what it also does is give these new colleagues an early insight into Be.Bromford and get a feel for how it works and what the navigation feels like. When day one comes around for the colleague they’ll get full access to the rest of the site. From here-in they’ll have access to the rest of the site.

Colleagues will use Be.Bromford to submit their one to one’s and annual reviews and use the site to explore a wealth of articles on various learning topics. We have animated and traditional learning videos, games, resources, screencasts, leadership tools and a social learning community for colleagues to share and support each other with their learning queries and experiences. We’ve also introduced a fantastic new tool called getabstract which helps colleagues find, extract and digest business books’ content in less than 10 minutes.

All of this is helping us to shape and build our next big learning project: something we’re working on we’ve called Job Ready Pathways. These pathways of learning are packaged up for colleagues by job role. It allows new starters to go through all the content they need to get them job ready and prepared to deliver their role and focusses on clarity and consistency for all.

24/7

Be.Bromford is slowly changing colleagues’ behaviours and the way we deliver our learning. We recognise traditional classroom training still has a very key place but what digital learning is doing for Bromford is complimenting the experience. Colleagues can access their pre-learning through Be.Bromford 24/7, share thoughts and ideas, research content and even help write and deliver it for others.

Digital learning for Bromford isn’t about taking anything away from what we currently do it’s about creating more learning opportunities for colleagues. It’s our enabler. It’s our Google.

You can watch our Be.Bromford video by clicking or tapping here.

Are you ready to adopt social learning?

Are you and your organisation ready to take up the educational ‘phenomenon’ that is sweeping around the globe? Social learning is one of those buzz phrases that so many of us seem keen to adopt for fear that missing out would see us finger-pointed into a corner of humiliation.

OK, I’ll be honest with you, social learning is nothing new. In the workplace colleagues have been learning from one another at the drinks machine, break areas, hallways and in meeting rooms from day dot.

However, digital platforms are the thing that are propelling social forward. Twitter is a perfect example of this:

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Vicky makes a very good point here; social media gives us an opportunity to connect with people who we may have never met before but may have a raft of knowledge to pass on – yet some of these people could only be a stones throw away from us.

I’m sure many of you know of my admiration for social media and the desire to learn something new. I enjoy learning, yet very little of my schooling is done in what some would see as a working bubble of a 9-5. In fact hardly any of my learning these days is done within a traditional classroom environment and I think this is becoming the general shift for many of us.

“The more talented people we have, the more we can accomplish, so we should make a habit of helping one another all of the time.”

It seems that our approach to learning is gradually changing – although some of us may not recognise it just yet. It’s far too easy to highlight to your manager, or your manager to you, that you’ve some personal development that’s required and to put your name forward for a new course. But why? Surely there’s someone across your office, in the next building or working out on site that has the answers to the questions you ask? And why is it we make a habit of going to a recognised trainer or senior colleague? Thom Bartley makes a great point in this post that the knowledge and experience we seek could just as easily be from a new colleague as someone who epitomises a part of the office furniture. So why not go to them – after all most of us use digital networks for referrals in our everyday lives.

Not convinced?

Think about your next holiday; do you go straight to the travel agent and go with the first break the advisor suggests? If you’ve not been to the destination before it’s highly unlikely. Chances are you’ll head over to websites such as Trip Advisor to check out the thoughts of like-minded travellers and see what they have to say.

Now, think about your next online purchase from a site such as Amazon. You think you know the product you want but then notice the average rating is less than 3 stars – the likelihood is you’ll not be buying that after all. So instead you look for something rated as 4 or 5 stars, you want products with reviews that match your needs and answer those questions that the product’s details seem to have over-looked.

If you’ve experienced either of these two scenarios then you’ve got the basic concept of how digital social learning can work for you.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Through online communities we can pick and choose what we want to learn and where we go to for that information. We can rate and comment on resources and contribute in determining what’s the most important and effective learning for us. We can add and share the best learning content, we can learn where we want, when we want and at a pace that suits us best.

So, here at Bromford we’re taking the next steps to provide our colleagues with a platform which we believe will help colleagues in their learning. We’re offering a blended approach to their personal development; videos, e-learning, podcasts, how-to-guides – a wide range of styles. And to bring all of this learning together, and for colleagues to share in their experiences, we’ve integrated a social learning community within the site.

“One size fits all is great when you’re buying a pair of gloves, but that just doesn’t work for learning.”

The great benefit of a social learning platform is that it organises the learning process by collecting information and making it accessible to all through communities. Once collected and shared the information can be used to determine behavior, establish rankings, popularity, value, usefulness and help shape future learning content.

We all respond to different styles of learning – so what we’re doing with the communities is providing an alternative path to colleagues’ personal development, a platform for sharing and discussing learning and best practice from the people who know our business best; our colleagues.

The Bromford DNA, Let It Be

This is my latest post that first appeared as a guest article over at All Things IC courtesy of Rachel Miller (thanks again Rachel). I hope you enjoy it.

*The Fab Four - can you name them?

*The Fab Four – can you name them?

I wonder how many of us could name The Beatles? My guess is that most would name the Fab 4 without breaking a sweat, right? Now, how many of us could reel off our company’s mission statement, vision and values without hesitation? Not so easy is it.

Anybody that follows me on twitter, reads my blog or knows me personally would have almost certainly heard me bang on about the company that I work with and how much I love it! Like The Beatles we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Bromford and it’s been during this milestone that we’ve opted for a cleaner and more leaner approach of inspiring people to be their best.

We’ve ditched the tradition of a mission statement, a blurred vision and an exhaustive list of values. Instead we look for colleagues to work with us who share our newly launched DNA; Be Good, Be Brave, Be Different and Be Commercial, our very own awesome foursome!

Our very own 'Fab Four'

Our very own ‘Fab Four’

Just this week, 6 months since their launch, a number of leaders from across Bromford (including me) were presented with a challenge; to go and investigate our DNA and then feedback to a wider audience what we found. We were asked to visit other teams, see how colleagues are embracing ‘the Be’s’, look at how they are bringing them to life and to, well, Be Nosey!

The day arrived and we had our usual army of tweeters and yammerers (is that the right word, do we even have one yet? If not let’s invent one!), who were on hand to pledge their support and give real-time updates to those who couldn’t be in the room. We were treated to a great variety of presentations ranging from videos to Haiku Decks, a specially built website to a live recording of a podcast! The session was absolutely brilliant; not only did it showcase the wealth of talent we have across Bromford, it also gave us insight into our teams that may have only surfaced previously during lunch breaks and through team meetings.

So for me, someone who relishes a challenge and wanting to #BeBrave and #BeDifferent, I prepared my findings in a unique and inexpensive way. I presented back through our first ever Bromford comic book.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

The comic’s content is taken from video screenshots of our HR team’s away day. What really stood out for me is the fun and engaging way in which colleagues were able to represent and demonstrate the respective Be’s from their team’s viewpoint. Inspirational lyrics, poems, amateur dramatics, avatars and future gazing – this team had it all, and don’t forget they were talking about something that had just replaced all that corporate jargon we used to have!

Now, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your mission statement, vision or values truly enable your colleagues to bring them alive in this way? Will they still be circulating like the Beatles are now; 50 years since they formed? We certainly hope that our new approach will stand the test of time and who knows, we could still be talking about our DNA come our 1st century!

If you’re interested in hearing more about our DNA and the #BeNosey challenge, visit our website and keep checking back for updates as they are released.

*Credit for The Beatles image goes to artist Meredith Kresge. Prints are available to buy here.

Where is your Social Media party?

Social Media Party

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I love a good party. I’d spent much of my late-teenage and early 20 years in many a concert, or festival, or nightclub dance-floors – I’d just love the coming together of like-minded party-goers, united under various guises but with a primary intention – to have a good time. But I would always say then, and stand by it now, that some of the best times I’ve had were the parties in peoples’ houses. Why? Because I’m a social person; I like to talk to and meet new people. I like to hear a few funny stories, learn a few things and get into some healthy debates! And I believe these parties are quite possibly the best place to do just this.

Social Media is no different. I see it as the digital equivalent. According to this report around 67 million of us in the UK are active on Facebook and Twitter. We like to be social online! We like to meet, greet, chat, laugh, learn, share – it’s the make-up of our digital communities. These comparisons got me thinking about the similarity of those house parties I used to attend and the different conversations that took place. So, I’ve decided to take you through a few of the rooms:

Hello

The Front Door

You’ve just arrived to the party so it’s most likely that you’re looking your best right now. This is your first opportunity to wow people and make that lasting first impression. I see similar tones that we apply to our LinkedIn profiles. We spend a great deal of time building our online résumé because our appearance is so important (think about that professional picture you have, the reputable job title and your catchy bio) knowing that people may, and will, judge you by this. (I’m still amazed that some people don’t place a face to their name on LinkedIn). So, get yourself comfortable with those initial first steps and once you start building a rapport with a few of your new connections and the compliments (recommendations) start flying around, you’ll soon be circulating within new groups and sharing some of your great stories!

The Living Room

“I’ve got this amazing story to tell you, pull up a pew”. This is the place where people give up the time to sit down and really listen to what others have got to say, to share in a few stories and chip in with a few thoughts of their own. It reminds me of blogging. Everyone has a story to tell but not all of us choose to share to a wider audience, some of us prefer to sit back and listen while others are happy to speak up. If you like what you hear you may want to join in on the conversation, similarly you may want to voice your opinion if you don’t like what you hear, but the great thing about story-telling is the tacit license you give people to share your message with others.

Facebook

Stairway & Bathrooms

I’m on Facebook, and I like to dabble in and out of my account a couple of times a day, occasionally passing comment – but I don’t pour my heart and soul out on there! But, much like those moments at a party when someone feels the need to cry on someone’s shoulder and just ‘let it all out’, I can’t help but think about those people who feel the need to do that in Social Media – and more often that not Facebook seems the place that people choose to do just that! They share family photos (“ahh, how sweet”); tell you about their latest crush (“uhh, OK”); post pictures of their dinner (“Hmm”); what they’ve had to drink (“did you have too many?”); who annoyed them that day (“tell me more!”); what they’re wearing (“where’s that from?”); and what they’re not (“did I really need to know that!!!”); where they’re going (“I’m jealous”); where they’ve been (“ooh, me too!”); where they shouldn’t have been (”naughty!”); and what they got up too (“you did what!?!”). I do enjoy Facebook. I like to share updates of great places I’ve visited, something I’ve listened to and share the occasional picture of my family, but when people choose to share some of those personal stories with their 100’s and 1000’s of ‘friends’, I’d say to keep those to a more private space – like we do at these parties!

The Kitchen

This is predominantly my favourite room of any party, not so much for my love of food but for the fact this is where the drink is! No seriously, I do find that most parties I go to get the biggest congregation in and around the kitchen – no real idea why but they do. So it may come as no surprise that this is the room that I see most closely connected to Twitter. This is the hub of my online activity. (Today is my 1st year twitter anniversary) It’s the easiest place to flit from one person to the next, the simplest way to strike up a conversation (without the need to waffle – 140 characters to be precise) and if you stick to just 2 simple rules you’ll soon have a growing number of followers who will show a genuine interest in what you’ve got to say. Like I said earlier; I’m a social person.

Social cocktail

I think it’s fair to say that, like a good party, if you really want to embrace Social Media you need to get involved. You’ll only ever truly get out of it what you put in. So make yourself known and be true to whom you are, move around the rooms, strike up conversation and take the time to listen to others.

This week I started my new post as Learning Communities Manager in our Colleague Development Team so I’d be really interested to hear if you share in the similarities that I have. Are there any other social sites that you use? Which one is your favourite and why? And in which room do you see them at your Social Media party? I’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave me a comment…

Tech out the future of Housing!

Future house

Technology is constantly evolving, and at a phenomenal pace. SMS messaging recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary yet it is no longer the primary form of communication through a mobile handset – not now social media has nestled its way into our everyday lives. The television set has been commercially available for almost 90 years but despite our appetite for soaps, films and live sport we are watching less on a traditional set and opting for other devices such as desktop PC’s, mobiles and tablets.

This story on the BBC tells how “Local Authorities had been required by law to provide council housing since 1919” and whilst there is still very much a demand for Social Housing – is the traditional service we once knew evolving into a service that offers more than just ‘Bricks & Mortar’? Here are some of my thoughts:

 

Social Media

Whether you prefer to tweet, like, post, pin, video or get linked in; chances are you are on Social Media and if you are it’s highly likely that people who reside in social housing are too – it’s just what people do these days. Social Media is happening, regardless of your viewpoint, but if you choose not to take part it will still continue to happen – without you! If customers are choosing to express their feelings about your business, positive or otherwise, isn’t it best to have a presence yourself and engage in that conversation? You might just learn a few things along the way too – for me personally, I find a wealth of information through my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

 

Self-service

Having the option to self-serve isn’t a new thing. Supermarkets and petrol stations have offered this facility for years and now with touch screens and smartphones in the hands of almost everyone, this drive will naturally gather more momentum over time. But will this catch on in Housing? At Bromford we firmly believe in helping our customers be as self-reliant as they can be which is why we launched our new Deal last year. But when will Housing reach the point that customers can do more for themselves digitally? Customers being able to pay their rent through a mobile device, accessing their statements, obtaining financial advice and support, booking a fuel service and diagnosing their own repairs, I’m sure these are all possible but will we ever truly go mobile with them?

 

Mobile Technology

Mobile technology continues to redefine how people and businesses are interacting with one another. According to this survey, at least 72% of mobile device owners use their devices for browsing or making purchases online. These people are online whilst they are waiting for appointments, watching TV and working yet what surprises me is that some organizations are choosing not to give mobile access to their services. However, there are some companies who are well and truly embracing what mobile technology can offer, like this fantastic project; Shared Walk (which you can read about in this post from Shirley Ayres). And mobile technology is not just for the benefit of the customer. There’s an opportunity here to introduce mobile learning and training for your employees, enhanced system integration so that users can access their desktop whilst they’re visiting customers’ homes, and at some point in the future we could see Google Glass in the workplace – now that would be something!

 

Reward Schemes

Reward schemes could be a great way to increase loyalty and incentivize engagement. Here at Bromford we trialed the government’s Tenant Cashback initiative last year, Sainsbury’s and BP have been connected with Nectar for years, Boots introduced Treat Street recently and Amazon now has Amazon Local. I think we’ve all heard of Groupon and Living Social and have a fair idea of how that works, this is what Groupon’s ‘about’ page says:

Groupon

How good would Social Housing be to offer that kind of experience to its customers in their communities?! Could this be that product that truly enriches the landlord/customer relationship?

 

3D Printing

Printing has, for a long time now, been a taboo in our offices. Many of us even carried taglines such as: “Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to” in our email signatures. But 3D Printing would no doubt be a welcomed addition to our work. Although we are still some way off from making this phenomenon both a timely and cost-effective tool, imagine a world of Social Housing where we are able to instantly print those boiler parts we need rather than having to wait for that 7 day turnaround from suppliers? Imagine if we could design and then print that new home your customer is longing for! What if we could print that new body part for that accident prone….OK, you get where I’m going with this!

 

Like I say, these are just a few of my observations and I’m sure many of you have some of your own. Social housing is so much more than just homes that people live in. At Bromford we’re about supporting people, inspiring, and creating opportunities. We’re about changing peoples’ lives for the better!

So where do you see the future of Housing? Where do you see technology playing a part in your workplace? Are there any technological advancement’s that you think would enhance the customer experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Can you see the P’s and Q’s in Social Media?

Santa on laptop

That time of year is once again upon us where we dig deep; we generate a list of ‘MUST’ buys and exhaust our bodies and our savings to celebrate the ‘BIG DAY‘. We cook for each other, drink with one another and push our bodies to belt-stretching gluttony. But, why is this?

It’s something that’s been instilled in us from an early age. The festive period is a time for giving and receiving, sharing and celebrating. It’s a time which should bring us closer together, not always physically – sometimes spiritually. We visit that certain someone, we pick up the phone, we send a card, send a gift, and through almost every single interaction there’s an underlining connection; two simple words in acknowledgement of the kind gesture that you’ve shared or received – thank you.

I’d like to think that manners is something else that’s been drummed into us all from the moment we’re able to communicate our first words. When my daughter Jessica first started to mutter words to me I would encourage her to say ‘please’ whenever she asked for something and ‘thank you’ whenever she received what she’d asked for. Admittedly those words were more like “peeeeez” and “taaaaaa” but she soon grasped the concept and now, at nearly 2 and a half, she projects her manners beautifully.

As we approach the final leg of this festive run-in I’ve started to think about our behaviours and draw on the similarities I’ve observed around Social Media. I used to enjoy the high street, especially around Christmas, but it’s become more like a contact sport. Some people enjoy the tussle, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled upon, and the ecstasy of the purchase. But it’s not for me. The ill manners, more specifically, started to get to me. The pushing and shoving, lack of door holding or non-thanks for your efforts, really started to grind on me. So I now take the easy option and work through the majority of my list online.

Don’t get me wrong I haven’t given up on the high street. I’m happy to put my hand in my pocket when visiting towns, villages and seaside resorts – there’s something really special about visiting those quaint little shops, but at this time of the year I don’t think the high street can compete with the online checkout.

FB thanks

And whilst online I also feel I have a duty of attention to our social communities. I have accounts in a number of channels. If you’re a friend of mine on my personal Facebook you’ll notice I make every effort to wish every single one of my 600+ buddies a happy birthday, every year. Some of these people I haven’t seen since I was at school but it’s something instilled into my very nature to do this. If we’re connected through my twitter you may notice the fact that almost every interaction I get is recognised with a thank you. A follow, a mention or a retweet; I appreciate all of these gestures and feel it is only right to express my gratitude. And if you leave me a comment on my blog I’ll always endeavour to leave you a response. This is me, it’s what I do.

So whilst we’re all getting into the spirit of Christmas this month lets also get into the spirit of social interactions. There’s no cost to you for expressing a little manners – just a little of your time – but think about the promotion and the praise that last person has just given you and where it could lead to. We’ll never completely eradicate the trolls and the haters in social media but isn’t it a nice thought that we could drown the noise from these ‘unwanted’ with the compliments and pleasantries we share with one another.

2012 is the first year I can say I’ve been genuinely active on Social Media and if there’s one heartfelt lesson I can take away from it all it’s this; our online social communities are all about engagement. Paul Taylor is the no.1 advocate for this in my opinion – a true digital champion (give him a follow if you don’t already). Not only does he bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and common sense to Social Media, he also brings personality, sense of humour and heaps of appreciation. It’s a great balance to his character and he has qualities we could all take something from.

So whilst Father Christmas waits in the wings to bring a bundle of presents to your communities (and I sincerely hope he does), have a think what presence you can bring within your digital communities. You have a wonderful opportunity to present yourself and your organisation within Social Media, to be an ambassador in your own digital realm, so make the experience a pleasant and social one for each and everyone.

Have a safe and a happy holiday and I’ll see you in 2013!

Andy