Setting up a social network for manager training
The first task is to establish a design for the social interaction. This must come before technology selection, so that the limitations of the technology do not drive or constrain the interaction. As with Franklin, the setup begins by defining the focus for the network. Is the group meant for new first-line supervisors or for new mid-level managers? Is the objective of the network to support development of leadership and communication skills, or to support application of critical policies, such as those relating to ethics? Next, provide some general guidelines or principles that will serve to support a healthy group process. Again, Franklin’s rules and 24 basic questions may provide you with a starting point.
Getting to the technology
When these tasks are completed, start identifying which technologies will best support the focus and the process. Jane Hart provides some excellent resources to help you in this:
You may also want to look at platforms that allow you to configure a collaborative space. These include:
A purpose-built platform for manager development
Although the name sounds like a riff on an Adam Lambert song, What Do You Want From Them (WDYWFT) is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based service designed from the ground up to enable organizations to create private social networks that facilitate the professional development of low- to mid-level managers. This platform (http:// www.whatdoyouwantfromthem.com) leverages social media and networking specifically to provide training and support for new managers.
The features of WDYWFT make it possible for an organization to help new managers learn about policies, ask questions, receive mentoring and leadership training, and discuss career advancement opportunities. It also provides the organization with a way to explain legal issues, provide ongoing feedback to managers, and demonstrate commitment to professional development initiatives. Configurable social software in WDYWFT can also foster peer-to-peer learning, collaboration, and innovation.
While WDYWFT is primarily a private group, it also makes it possible to extend access to a global community of managers around the world. This makes it possible for new managers to expose themselves to different leadership styles and perspectives, share knowledge, ask questions, and find support.
Why consider a social network for manager training?
Anna Smith, the principal of WDYWFT, points out the fact that workers in their 20s and 30s expect to be able to use the latest IT applications in their workplace. They are used to social networking online, and to online learning, often preferring these to classroom instruction. As Smith says, using social networking leverages technology tools that young managers already use on a daily basis. “By engaging them on their terms and in their language, we’re taking an inside approach to training and developing the potential of tomorrow’s business leaders. In addition, this also will encourage open communication between companies, employers, HR departments, owners, and managers.”
These are the workers who will be your new supervisors and managers. Without appropriate technology tools and resources available in their work environment, they may look for help from non-work related services such as Facebook.com. Integrating social media into the development environment eliminates this potential challenge and at the same time increases the potential for success of the development effort and of the new managers.