I began my business career at a pivotal time during the 1980's -- when the typewriter was replaced by word processors, and, eventually, by personal computers. It was even a more exciting time as I worked for Kelly Services, the "Kelly Girl" people. The challenge of providing qualified temporary employees and the rapid onset of "office automation" turned Kelly Services' business world upside down!
Customers who were accustomed to asking for a "50 wpm" typist, were now unsure of which skills to request. What was the proper skill-set for this new way of working? Office skills had changed. Word processing skills? Spreadsheet skills? And many other types of skills required to use other software packages?
On the receiving end of the request, Kelly branch employees were bewildered initially on how to successfully match skills to assignments. Understanding the new technology/terminology was a challenge for Kelly corporate. They needed to bring to their field organization up to speed as quickly as possible and globally to each office. How to train Kelly's branch office staff so that temporary help orders could be filled properly in this new era?
Quickly responding, Kelly Services became widely-recognized as a leader in corporate training. Utilizing new computer-based training technology and in-house film studio led to innovations such as corporate training videos, computer-based training,and training delivered on-site. The rapid changes in office skills were debilitating to internal corporate human resources departments, temporary help and permanent placement agencies.
Those were "heady" times for me personally. I was privileged to play an important role in moving Kelly Services office/clerical division forward from the typewriter to the dedicated word processor and then to the desktop PC with software packages. Innovative training programs for both temps and permanent office staff was accomplished through a variety of programs developed by corporate branch staff such as myself. Each member of Kelly's branch office staff required training to understand office automation technology technology and the new terminology.
Before IT departments could create a list of approved systems/software packages, individual departments began purchasing and installing packages themselves. IT departments needed to "control" each department's purchasing so as to standardize.. Kelly branch staffers received intense education on both sales and service training. This type of training was essential to Kelly Services' maintaining its leadership position in the temporary help industry, Developing and delivering this training had to be delivered quickly but effectively.
Kelly senior executives made strategic decisions which were essentially bets. It was unknown what the evolution of office automation would bring and how quickly. The way an office functioned and the flow of paperwork changed drastically and quickly. Widespread use of word processing forced typewriter ribbons and white-out to the trash cans!
Imagine the challenge for office --to move away from something concrete like "words per minute" and into a world which needed to be translated to dedicated word processor skills. Quickly on the heels of the dedicated wp, temps needed to retrained on how to use software packages like, Microsoft Word, on a IBM/PC platform. This was a new way of working and people needed to learn to adopt to the new technology. It was widely accepted that office workers needed training to access this new value proposition offered on a word processing platform for revisions, merge mailing and other things not possible on the IBM Selectric typewriter.
Fast forward twenty years, and here we are again at the intersection of the office and technology which is once again changing the way people work. Outputs and deliverables are now greatly enhanced due to more collaborative work groups facilitated through social media. Experts of all types can "weigh-in" on a topic and produce content which is collaborative in nature. Rather quickly, some corporations have recognized the need for standardization to create order to this new mayhem. For now, there seems to be the lack of adoption of standard corporate training for social media skills. Even agreement on the need for such training. But we are still very very early on this collaborative platform!
In a recent blog post on CapGemini website by Rick Mans, "The 'no-training' myth in Social Media," Rick raises the issue of introducing a new way of working and the burden of corporations to provide training and standardization on a new platform. How to best and consistently implement corporate-wide standards and guidelines is the first step for smart firms. How can enterprise companies expect their teams to instantly and similarly utilize a new communication platform, let alone use it in a collaborative environment without dedicating resources for training?
Social media (which is a term i dislike as it sounds like "play" and not "work") is a powerful connector which makes our world much smaller. Social media can unite and create groups of like-minded people and it can educate and drive business in so many ways, many of which have even yet been conceived. Social media skills and a social media strategy is something which the smart enterprises will put significant time and dollars toward training their employees to utilize and in a planned fashion. Once again, its a new way of working and as such it requires resources dedicated to employee training. In the same way as word processing facilitated the revision process, social media facilitates the relationship process through technology. Therefore, training for social media consists of two components: mechanics of utilizing each tool and strategic use of each tool for relationship development.
Whereas it may be easy to standardize training on the mechanics of using social media tools, it is not as straightforward to devise a standard approach for philosophy and messaging throughout large enterprise firms. Issues such as language, messaging, etiquette, privacy have yet to be standardized but will be forthcoming as large firms find their voice on the new social media highway. Many policies will need to be created where there are none and now monitored and refined many times over to meet the changing usage of this powerful connector now called "social media."
Whether its called social media or media for social, the impact of this new technology on the office, people and connectivity and collaboration is happening virally without effort. Just like every other new groundswell technology, social media needs to make its own mistakes and pave its own way. Corporations need to devote time, energy and resources toward training their own workforces to be social media savvy, safe and effective!
Until that idea is more widespread, I encourage my readers to jump in and try it out! Social media is an online conversation 24/7 with literally millions of topics. Find your own place of entry and join right in!
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