Look out, the intrapreneurs are coming! Yep, those pesky employees who take ideas, initiatives and learning into their own hands and drive real business benefits by doing so. Oh wait, that’s a good thing, right? So why isn’t it encouraged more often?
In Jane Hart’s recent post, the Rise of the Intrapreneurs, she talks about stalemate habits where L&D teams still try to provide overall learning content centrally. These habits emphasize ‘DOING things to people (and making sure they do it)’ rather than ‘SUPPORTING them as they do things for and by themselves’.
Bubbling under the surface, however, is the rise of the intrapreneurs — people within business who continuously want to learn and create new things, driving business change from the ground up. Here are 7 reasons we think not only encouraging but empowering grassroots learning movements makes good business sense. And we’ve added some of our favorite tools to help that movement, and you, flourish.
1. Baby boomers are leaving – with all that knowledge
Over the next few years, millions of baby boomers are set to retire, taking all that experience and know-how with them. With talent gaps cited by many businesses and with leadership pipelines looking a little dry, this isn’t a small matter. But there’s still time to bridge the talent gap and help this expert generation share their tips, tricks and knowledge with others. Mentoring and workshops are good options, but easy-to-use technologies will help spread the word faster and wider, and can make it available forever.
2. Employees are your brand advocates – let them spread the (good) word
Employees are at the heart of your business—they are what you do. They are also your best brand advocates, able to reach out to customers as well as future talent. Employees that are engaged and feel their part of the brand and story of a business will stick around. And they tend to give more back, upping productivity, innovation, customer service and business growth. Let them be part of the story and bring others into it by encouraging involvement, sharing, and storytelling. Simple self-shot videos, blog posts, and stories of successes and lessons learned are all great fodder for onboarding and recruitment, and for just feeling the love.
3. Involved employees drive business growth
Research shows that going beyond engaging employees and actually involving them in your business planning, improvement strategies, and learning and development is a key growth driver that can set your business apart. Brand Learning’s excellent report on Growth Drivers pinpoints employee involvement as a vital ingredient in growth. Empower people to create, share, develop and learn independently and in groups. Involve learners in your projects through by encouraging more collaboration.
4. Learning happens on the inside
As Jane Hart says, learning is not something you do to someone. You can inspire, help and support learning with great signposting, well-designed content and experiences that allow someone to explore, see, try, fail, discuss, compare and share. And of course, some learning happens without your help at all. But cheesy as it sounds, true learning happens within.
This is literally the case—when we learn, bonds in the brain are broken and new ones are formed. But when we talk about learning, we’re also talking about creating a change in performance, habit or behavior, and making that leap requires personal motivation.
If motivation can be generated from the inside—through grassroots movements and peer-to-peer learning, that’s a good thing, right?
5. People often know what they need, more than we do
We’re not all great at gauging our own abilities, but we’re usually pretty good at sussing out when we need practical help and finding someone or something to help us. While we need to align ourselves as learning designers with performance needs and get in-sync with modern learning behaviors, there’s certainly also room to listen to learners and collaborate with them in our learning projects. We can also give them tools to help them collaborate with others.
6. Learning is a process – so let it be sustainable
Many learning projects have an end point. But learning is not fixed, like a book or a course. It’s a process. And the more we support it as a process rather than seeing it as a series of one-off projects, the more likely we are to encourage long-term performance improvements. For easy wins, blend up formal learning elements with user- or expert-generated learning content to help meet multiple needs and encourage people to keep climbing the learning curve.
7. You can’t stop it – but you can help make it smarter
Intrapreneur movements, including informal and peer-generated learning, happen and are going to keep happening whether you like it or not. With the aid of some smart, open and collaborative technologies, you can help make it easier and more efficient to create and spread knowledge. Plus, you’ll be showing that you actively value and empower your employees—a win–win for upping engagement and employee commitment.
Some collaborative and sharing technologies that can help
Any nicely designed tech that helps people share and collaborate is good in our book. We’ve mentioned some useful tools previously, but here’s a quick pick of three that empower people to learn.
- Anders Pink is an app that enables your team to stay smart by sharing curated briefings on news that’s relevant to them. Teams can set up their own personalized briefings that filter content based on what matters to them. It’s a fantastic content curation tool that can be used as is or that can provide fodder for further sharing or learning content creation.
- Live meeting tools, such as Hangouts, appear.in, GoToMeeting and Skype, where you can screen share, use videos or collaborate with interactive whiteboards and mind-mapping are great.
- Elucidat is our very own collaborative authoring tool that empowers people to create great learning, easily.
Are you keen to embrace modern learning that works with employees and encourages easy knowledge sharing but you’re not sure where to start? Drop us a line.