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IBM Manager Expands on His Informal Learning Management Report (Interview)

Written by Bloomfire Admin

Sachin Gaur works at IBM as a Business & Technical Leadership Partner, part of the India HR organization, facilitating the identification and development of Business & Technical Leaders for the largest business unit of IBM India with more than 40,000 people. His key responsibilities also include succession planning, managing informal learning and placement of key leaders into key positions across the organization.

Sachin has spent the past 12 years “in the trenches,” managing learning functions and deploying learning solutions across organizations of various sizes and complexities. Based on his experiences, Sachin has recently published a paper on the Method and System for Managing Informal Learning Initiative for Learning Management Systems. He can be reached via Linkedin and you can find more about his experiences there.

Q. Sachin, since training & development is often a team effort, can you help us understand the challenges that each stakeholder faces?

Although each stakeholder has a different set of expectations from Training & Development as a function, there are challenges that are common—access to data/information in a timely manner, collaboration for decision making, articulation of value, etc.

Then there are those which are unique to each one of them—senior executives face the challenge of not being able to communicate the “big picture,” and client-facing T&D professionals face the challenge of not completely understanding business but still tasked with the job of improving performance. Project managers face the challenge of continuous and incessant “scope-creep,” instructional designers face the challenge of making a choice between doing things fast and doing them well, and the list can go on.

Q. Drawing from your IBM experience, can you share how technology is enhancing team collaboration?

I feel that technology is the answer to the collaboration woes that plague most global organizations—global spread, matrix-ed structures, and cultural differences. The ability to connect with experts and get answers instantly, throw around and debate ideas on a common whiteboard, “crowdsource” feedback and best practices from practitioners, mine social networks for tacit knowledge, etc., represent some of the many collaboration enhancing activities that can be enabled through the use of today’s technology.

Q. What about technology and team performance? Where’s the tie-in to collaborative learning and performance improvement?

Performance measurement is the starting point of any performance improvement effort. In today’s complex performance environments, technology is the cornerstone of any measurement efforts. Add to this the use of technology in designing and delivering remediation measures and you can see how integral it is to the overall premise of performance improvement.

Research has shown that collaborative learning is effective across age groups and generations. In a global organization where learners are spread out, a Collaborative Learning platform can bring together learners from all over the world. When interactivity generating/supporting tools are added to such platforms, driving adoption and ensuring results cease to be an issue. Think of a SlideShare + LinkedIn + Twitter + Scribd + WebEx + SecondLife + Moodle environment and I bet you can feel the power that such platforms can have on driving learning and thereby performance improvement.

Q. If people are learning more from each other, how might instructor-led training and development change?

Is instructor-led development going to go away in another 10 years? Probably not. I see it as evolving from being a sole method of delivering learning to being one of the components of a learning intervention.

I am very passionate about informal learning and I see a clear integration of what is taught in the classroom with informal learning. The trainer tells you about something in the class, and you are then supposed to shadow someone who performs that job in the workplace. Once done, you come back and share your experiences.

I also see a dilution on the current maniacal focus on measuring everything. In the next 10 years, I see measurement energies being focused on what is really required and not of everything that is measurable.

Q. Any thoughts on the role that “online learning communities” might play?

Online communities will play a hybrid role—library, friends circle, agony aunt, locker rooms, dorms, all rolled into one—a place where people get exposed to and adapt ideas, thoughts, creative expressions, and opinions.

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