Embracing 'Listen Only' Participation Is Critical for Enterprise Learning

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As enterprise learning organizations explore ways to develop their mobile sales force, understanding the importance (and preference) for “listen only” participation is critical.

Social media services like Twitter and Facebook, content aggregators like Pulse and Google Reader, and discount buying services like Groupon and Living Social, have tapped into and given users the ability to participate in listen only mode. Whether called feeds, alerts, or activity streams they all have the same benefit; users can passively monitor content and quickly engage if they find it valuable. Don Pontefract describes these types of learners as the Connected Lurker.

Embracing the listen only participation is important for the enterprise learning development team as they compete for employee informal learning time. From an employee’s point of view, passive monitoring enables broader access to relevant information sources and the ability to interact with content most important for their immediate need (or bookmark for later review). For learning department personnel to effectively compete in an employee’s listen only mode, they should consider these three things:

  • Micro learning - Think in terms of 140 characters and 30 second videos. For instance, instead of a 10 minute module on a 5 step sales process, distribute 5 separate 2 minute micro learning snippets. A learner may not be interested in the Building Rapport with a Customer section, but highly interested in Asking Key Questions to Uncover Needs.

  • Compelling content - Focus on timeliness and relevance. While an employee is in listen only mode, product learning delivered by the company after initial launch will not gain the same interest as current customer or industry reviews. However, company or peer endorsed suggestions for using a recent product review will be useful and welcome, so focus resources on the more timely and relevant content.

  • Feed or platform - In the near future this may be the biggest obstacle to competing effectively in the listen only employee space. Company embedded communication and learning tools, from Web Ex to SharePoint to e-mail, do not compete very well in the listen only space when compared to the consumer driven Web 2.0 companies listed above. Social business software applications like Jive Software, SocialText or Salesforce.com have some additional distribution options with their embedded feeds that should be considered. In the meantime, allowing mobile learners to opt into internal RSS feeds, blogs, or breaking news alerts will at least allow you to enter the listen only space.

  • Successfully competing in the informal “listen only” learning space requires learning development teams to truly understand the model, embrace micro learning and find distribution mediums that allow passive engagement. Master these things and you will have more influence over informal learning content consumed by employees.