How To Build A Corporate Learning Community Of Practice
There are a variety of advantages associated with having a learning community of practice in corporate settings. Not only can it help organizations to develop new strategies and solve company-wide challenges, but it also allows each and every member to expand their professional knowledge base and share their invaluable insights to maximize productivity. Keep in mind that corporate learning communities of practice can exist either online or offline, making them ideal for both internet-based organizations and brick-and-mortar companies.
- Have a clear objective or purpose in mind.
Determine the goals and objectives that the corporate learning community of practice hopes to achieve through knowledge sharing. What is the purpose of creating this corporate learning community of practice? Do you want to fine tune your training strategy? Are you trying to improve the performance of a particular department? Have a clear idea of why you are developing a learning community of practice so that members know how they can do their part to achieve the desired outcome.
- Establish a corporate learning community of practice plan or infrastructure.
Every corporate learning community of practice must have a clear plan or infrastructure in place. Create a charter that identifies the strategy of the group, how they will communicate, when and how they will hold meetings, etc. This can give everyone an idea of how the learning community of practice will function and what's expected of them.
- Be aware of the experience and knowledge each member brings to the table.
Figure out what each member of the corporate learning community brings to the group and what core knowledge or experience they are able to share with the other members beforehand. Ideally, you'll want a corporate learning community of practice that features a diverse group of individuals, so that each one brings something unique and invaluable to the table. As your group will be made of a limited number of employees, you'll want to ensure that a wide range of employees are represented. For example, if you'll be developing a company-wide learning community, include at least one person from each department, as well as those that excel in different areas or skill sets.
- Hold an introductory meeting for all members.
Arrange a meeting, whether it's online or offline, wherein all of the members can meet one another and begin discussing the goals and objectives. This will also allow them to get comfortable with sharing knowledge and ideas with the other members of the learning community, which can help to improve the effectiveness of the learning community of practice in the long run.
- A moderator is key to the success of any learning community of practice.
No corporate learning community of practice is complete without a moderator in place. Appoint someone who is widely appreciated and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics that will be discussed. This individual will help to guide discussions during meetings, keep the group on-task, and may even serve as a liaison between the organization and the corporate learning community of practice. You can either choose to appoint the moderator directly, or have the group vote for the person they believe best represents the community.
- Hold regular meetings to share knowledge and strengthen communication.
Regular meetings are another key to the success of any corporate learning community of practice, due to the fact that these gatherings serve as perfect opportunities for sharing and collaboration. It will also help communities to interact in a more effective manner, due to the fact that they will have the chance to speak directly with other members and to receive immediate feedback and input.
- Use social media platforms and online forums to keep in touch.
Social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as online forums, can serve as invaluable communication tools. This is true both for the communities who meet in-person and for those that are online-based. Sharing ideas and working together to come up with new and innovative solutions is quick and convenient with these networking platforms, which can even be used to share files, images, and videos.
- Project management software tools can serve as virtual headquarters.
Project management software tools, such as Asana, Basecamp, and TeamWorkPM, can all serve as a virtual base of operations for a corporate learning community of practice. Through these platforms the members can share documents, assign tasks, keep track of deadlines for projects, and stay up-to-date with a community calendar. This can allow a community to stay on-task and well organized, even if its members are working remotely.
- Offer support and resources to fledgling communities.
The success of any corporate learning community of practice greatly hinges upon the support and receives that the organization itself offers. They need to have access to the necessary tools, apps, and even monetary funds (if applicable), in order to achieve the primary goals and objectives, especially in the beginning stages. With this support, the learning community of practice will be more likely to develop training and development solutions and strategies that can benefit the entire organization.
- Hold a company-wide survey to identify issues and areas of improvement.
Survey a wide range of employees in the organization to determine the issues or weaknesses that the learning community of practice should focus on. This invaluable feedback can allow the members to focus on the most pressing matters that the organization is facing at the moment, and identify where their time and resources should be allocated. At the same time, it will help them to develop a plan for how to move forward, for example what should be the core discussion topics that should be covered during meetings.
Whether your company employs 50 or 5,000 staff members, a corporate learning community of practice can give you the opportunity to achieve success by tapping into the collective knowledge and skill sets of your workforce. With these tips on hand you can create an effective corporate community of practice in any niche or industry.
If you'd like to learn more about the online tools that can help you to create your community of practice, the Developing Communities of Practice article offers an in depth look at which social media platforms are ideal for corporate learning communities.