As I am typing this column, the stock market is going crazy. Large, volatile shifts are causing consumers anxiety.
But what are your workers thinking? How does this affect your customers? And, more important, how does your organization create and disseminate “real-time context” relevant to the headlines of today and tomorrow?
Most organizations lack the ability, infrastructure or development capacity to provide real-time context, other than in a dire emergency, which triggers a rare companywide CEO e-mail alert.
Learning leaders should start planning for a more nimble and rapid way to provide real-time context for workers and learners. Here are some active examples and approaches:
• Embedded Recent Examples: When building an e-learning course, include a link to an easy-to-update internal Web page with “Recent Examples.” These are coded as an “include,” which will automatically wrap this content into the more stable e-learning content. For example, when talking about sales approaches, the “Recent Examples” page could be kept current by a sales manager, with short paragraphs about wins and losses in the last 60 days. Learners will be impressed by how current the content is, which will make an impact, but the “Recent Examples” page can be automatically updated without redesigning the core content or code.
• From Content to News: In a similar fashion, an algorithmic search of Google, Yahoo or corporate search engines can be coded into learning content that will automatically display recent articles or items from external or internal news sources. These can be added as a sidebar without editing or can be reviewed and highlighted by a member of the learning team each day or week.
• From News to Existing Content: Flip this process and think about having one member of the team review the top headlines of the day from The Wall Street Journal, local news or the Web sites of your related associations. Then, build a link from these items as they are displayed on your intranet page and refer users to existing relevant content. For example, if there is an industrial accident at another company in your field, that is a perfect opportunity to point to a safety module.
• From News to Rapid Context: Sometimes, the news deserves a more direct and corporate response. If the stock market is changing rapidly, how does the company view these changes? How should workers talk to your customers about these changes? Here is where recent tools such as executive blogs or podcasts come in very handy. Build a capacity for your senior executives to create text- or media-based short responses to key news stories.
• Water-Cooler Context Engaged: People are still going to use the water cooler to get a great deal of their real-time context. The “water cooler” of 2007 includes e-mail, the phone and even rapid text messages. I was on the phone yesterday when the person I was talking to got a text message about dropping stock prices. You can’t and shouldn’t try to eliminate the natural and necessary “community” dimensions of water-cooler context, but you can engage and inject content and context into the process. Managers and others can be given context to share in these informal and formal ways.
• Click Green for Context: I would love to see our industry develop a standard color for real-time context. What if you could use green as the indicative link for updates, context and community reaction? When we develop a piece of content, whether it’s e-learning, performance support or an article to be read, a green link would take the learner to real-time context.
Some of you might be asking, “Why?” The reality is that learners trust content when it is presented with rich context. And when the world is changing around them, both at and outside work, real-time context is at the heart of their trust and transfer.
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