Social Networking in Talent Management: Where are we?

Whew.  Earlier this year we embarked on a major research effort to understand the growing role of social networking in enterprise learning and talent management.  The results are amazing.   Let me give you a brief preview of some of our initial findings:

  1. Organizations are working mightily to figure out how to leverage social networking (blogs, wikis, presence awareness, messaging, expert directories, communities of practice) in all forms of corporate training, customer education and support, and talent management.  For example, 77% of all L&D organizations believe that younger workers (under 25) have significantly different learning styles than older workers, yet only 16% feel they have developed some level of expertise in the implementation of collaborative learning.  In our most recent Learning On-Demand research, even the most advanced companies tell us that only 14% of companies are using blogs or wikis, and fewer than 4% feel highly successful with these solutions yet.  One big surprise:  28% of our research respondents are not even using Instant Messaging yet, illustrating how long it takes for collaborative solutions to reach broad adoption (and support from IT).
  2. Learning platforms are being “re-examined.”  Most of the companies we talk with are significantly rethinking their entire learning platform strategy (LMS) to understand how to evolve or add new systems which support collaboration.  And today’s LMS is not as successful as one would believe:  across all the organizations we studied (approximately 900 different organizations), on average only 51% of employees use the learning platform at all.
  3. Sophistocated, large, global companies are moving fast.  Almost 1/4 (24%) of organizations now have some concept or strategy for “learning on-demand” (the term we have coined to describe the next era of corporate e-learning), and larger organizations (those with more than 10,000 employees) are twice as far along as small to mid-sized organizations.  The reason, of course, is that large organizations have no choice – without collaborative solutions they can no longer scale their L&D programs.
  4. Social networking software companies are sprouting up like weeds.  We identified 90 such companies in our research, and more than 35 of them are somewhat focused on the corporate internal employee market.  Our initial research clearly shows that these companies fall into four categories:  (A) software providers focused on corporate learning, HR, and collaboration systems and solutions (e.g. IBM, Microsoft-Sharepoint, Jive, Mzinga, Awareness, Q2 Learning, and others), (B) providers focused on external customer and public-facing collaborative networks like a company external blog (e.g. Lithium, Ning, Communispace, Telligent) (C) providers focused on content management systems, who have added on systems for collaboration (EMC, OpenText,  Ektron, Alfresco) and (D) true application software companies who are adding collaboration and social networking to their systems (SuccessFactors, Saba, CornerstoneOndemand).
  5. I firmly believe that this new form of software-enabled collaboration is a revolution, not an evolution.  Like many of the software innovations that I have personally witnessed over my career (e.g. the first color graphics PC, the CD-ROM, the web-browser, Flash, SaaS architectures, and others), social networking is really going to shake things up.  The reason is that these systems are both complex, data-rich, and require a new type of software architecture.  A system which supports 200,000 employees and customers with in-depth employee and customer profiles, active communication and blogging, tagging, content management, custom branding, and tracking each and every communication is quite a complex software solution.  As we examine these vendors we are finding some very significant new areas of functionality which are going to change and upset the traditional HR software companies.
  6. The jury is out on what our ultimate HR software architectures will look like.  Small and mid-sized companies will likely adopt social networking through their SaaS application solutions.  Enterprises are more likely to develop IT standards eventually.  And many companies will implement departmental, divisional, and application-led solutions while the market evolves.  While most enterprises would like to have a corporate “architecture” in this area, it will take time for this to occur and it often takes a few years for the “safe, corporate-approved” solutions to emerge.  (None are there yet.)

We also recently hired David Mallon, our newest analyst covering this area – who is actively involved in identifying case studies and product solutions in “learning on-demand” and the applications of social networking to corporate talent management. 

Research Available:  A Primer on Social Networking in Talent Management

We recently published “Social Networking for Enterprise Learning and Talent Management:  A Primer” which is available to anyone who would like to register at our website. 

Note:  we are actively seeking input on your experiences and organizational strategy in this area – you can participate in this study by clicking here.

An exciting area and we look forward to giving you more information as we learn more!

 

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