Productivity seminars: social media efficiency gains?

We all face situations where we do not get the most out of our IT equipment. Staff who are unaware of a machine’s full options may end up using powerful PCs as typewriters.

How do you make sure you, your team, and your organisation are maximizing the productivity potential of the IT systems you use? Is there a way to leverage individual expertise, within an organisation, across the organisation? Does Yammer or a similar social media tool offer a knowledge productivity gain? In particular, how do you share knowledge about tips and techniques with staff some of whom may be unaware they need it.? For example, staff may be unaware that they can password protect their printing so if they send it to common printer it will only print when they put in their password.

An enduring complaint in the modern office is “too many emails/ How do I manage my emails?” What this suggests, if staff are using Outlook, is that they are unaware of the Outlook functionality that allows them to set rules to filter their emails or redirect them based upon the subject line or author.

How do we scale up individual knowledge like the example above to staff who want to know about it but do not know who or how to ask for it.

The productivity gains here are different from, but related to, the productivity gains offered by improved management techniques. The knox d’arcy report on local government management, while amazingly prescient and well observed, focused on management.

My focus here is on the emerging knowledge worker, perhaps within local government, and how organisations improve their productivity. This not simply publishing more information, but finding a way to create a coherent and consistent push-pull. For example performance management monitors performance and changes inputs to get better outputs. How do we do that on an individual level within a large organisation?

At a basic level, you can sit someone in front of a computer and let him or her work it out without any guidance. Highly inefficient, but likely happens more than we would care to admit.

Second, you can give them the manual or tell them where the manuals are located. They then have to teach themselves and know what they are looking for in terms of a problem or a solution. [Quick question: How many people know what kerning is and how to set it on the Microsoft word documents?]

Third, one can set up what Microsoft offers with its Outlook product an ongoing RSS within outlook that sets out hints and tips to help users to use the products capacity. However, what do you do if those topics do not cover what you need?

Fourth, ask a colleague. Most people, in a situation where they need help, ask a colleague (hopefully someone more knowledgeable about the topic) to find a solution. However, this is inefficient because either they do not know or, if they have a solution, it is usually sub-optimal.  However most staff seem to want to learn from their colleagues.

Fifth, one can go to a “training course” where they go through a curriculum (i.e. learn the theory of fishing or even some fishing techniques) without addressing ways in which the specific product, how do I get this hook to work better, or is this the best net for catching small mouth bass?  Are they learning how to add value to their work? Moreover, are they learning how to modify their work to get the most out of the machine. In addition, if the team need the information, this relies upon the one officer on the training course being able to train their colleagues.

So what are some of the solutions you use? Do you have an agreed approach within your organisation for getting the most out of your IT, and other equipment and making staff more productive.

Social media may offer a solution.  Yammer and other services allow forums where staff can ask questions of in-house expert users who can show them, on-line or in person, how to get the most out of their systems (or at least address some of the issues you have). . For example, you can use Twitter as a personal learning network (PLN)

Do you encourage staff to go to outside forums? However, will that help teams who have the same work? One person may have the knowledgeable in the team, but they may not be able to train the others. How do they get non-technical help in improving their productivity as a knowledge worker? By that I mean, I may have a technical problem, and the IT helpdesk can help me with that problem, but how do I get help with increasing the productivity of myself my team through the equipment we have?

For example, your service provider may train people in your organisation to operate the system and thereby support ongoing work. Did they spend time working through, in an interactive development session, how to get the equipment working best for them in what they need?

Is there a future opportunity to create micro blogsites where staff can get such hybrid technical and productivity knowledge questions asked and answered? The challenge is to find the right balance of push and pull. How much information do you make available to push and how much do you make available to pull? In the examples, I cited above, there is a strong pull factor, but this presupposes someone who is aware of their reduced capacity and an incentive and time to improve it. At the same time, there has to be resources to draw that from, which are in abundance on the web.

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to Productivity seminars: social media efficiency gains?

  1. Tom Gorman says:

    If I want to learn how to clear a jam in my printer, play Waterloo Sunset on the guitar or change the filter on my vacuum cleaner, I just go on Youtube and invariably, there is someone on there who has already figured it out, recorded themselves doing it and can talk me through it. This kind of technology is invaluable at home so why don’t we use it more in the workplace (or do others already do this)?


    • lawrence serewicz says:

      I suspect that some do. But do most know it is available? Are they told it is available and does their work want or allow them access? There is a push pull factor and sometimes it is being able to ask the system the answer to the immediate problem. We can learn to fish but we still need to eat and therefore want to be given the fish and be taught how to be better at fishing. However how many managers are taught or told or encouraged to help their staff become better at fishing? After all, the impetus and emphasis is for delivery the product and the outcome right now. Who has toime to stop and sharpen the saw or even check to make sure this is the right saw?


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