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We are moving into a new phase of social business adoption. Organizations have accepted the need for adopting social processes and activating social employees around new organizational tools and philosophies.

As we demonstrated in our best-selling book The Social Employee (McGraw-Hill, 2013), such an undertaking extends to every element of a business—fundamentally changing organizational structure and communication hierarchies. This is no small task, and with 2015 now well underway, the focus has been quickly shifting to social learning as the foundation of “going social.” One very recent example of the value being placed on this is LinkedIn’s pending acquisition of Lynda.com, a business education software firm. This is a fascinating move, and one that will further cement the company’s legacy and ambitions of becoming a cutting-edge hub for the workforce of the future.

But it’s not just LinkedIn. Learning management systems (LMS) are becoming a big business, growing 24 percent in 2014 over the previous year. Organizations understand that, to borrow an old axiom, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Likewise, you can give your employees all the social tools in the world, but if you don’t support the process through education and advocacy, you won’t get them to adopt.

So if we’re talking about adopting LMS systems and creating comprehensive social learning programs, who’s going to lead it? I recently came across a video with John Hagel (@jhagel) and John Seely Brown (@jseelybrown), where they discuss the growing importance of the chief learning officer (CLO) within organizations:

I was struck by Hagel’s prediction that in the rising business environment, CLOs will essentially have the inside track to becoming CEO—or at least becoming prominent board members, as Brown adds. It makes sense. When we talk about social learning, we are talking about the fundamental organizational structure of a business. As such, the CLO, the architect of these social learning programs, will develop intimate, hands-on knowledge of the inner workings of a social business at multiple levels—building a range of expertise essential for the social CEOs of the future.

The first chief learning officer was Steve Kerr, who revolutionized GE’s learning programs beginning about 25 years ago. Adoption of the CLO position continues to grow, although it’s unclear just how many organizations have climbed on board. At any rate, the position has grown prominent enough to have its own trade publications and annual exchanges.

It’s encouraging to see such investment in and building awareness of a position that will only grow in importance as technology and information management increase in complexity. The business of the CLO—and indeed of social learning—is not teaching employees what to know, but rather to teach them how to know. It’s not about learning just one system, but establishing a cognitive foundation so that employees can adapt to the endless conveyor belt of new systems.

In closing, I’m reminded of something Tom Peters (@tom_peters)—himself a tireless advocate of education in business—said on the value of social learning:

Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop—day by day—the skillset, “soft” and “hard,” of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent* (*there is no “permanent” circa 2014) to the maximum extent of your abilities. The good news: This is also the number-one mid- to long-term … profit maximization strategy!

Some might bristle at the term “moral”; that’s a pretty heady word for something as “simple” as training. But I—and many, many others in the business world—learned long ago that when Peters is passionate on a subject, he’s usually on to something, and it’s probably a good idea to listen. And if the point of doing business is to keep doing business, then employee training, education, and social learning are key ingredients of building a sustainable formula for success—ensuring a nimble workforce capable of both advancing as individuals and passing the torch on to the next wave of social employees.



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Below are recent endorsements for The Social Employee (McGraw-Hill, August 2013) by Tom Peters and David Aaker on their social networks, but if you want to see more of their endorsements click here.

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In The Social Employee, we go behind the scenes with several leading brands—such as IBM, AT&T, Dell, Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Cisco, Acxiom, and Domo—pulling the lid off the inspiring social business success stories that have propelled these companies into the 21st century. These cutting-edge brands have all come to the same realization: the path to social business lies through empowering the social employee.

See what others are saying about The Social Employee and order your copy today!


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“Great brands have always started on the inside, but why are companies taking so long to leverage the great opportunities offered by internal social media? . . . The Social Employee lifts the lid on this potential and provides guidance for businesses everywhere.” JEZ FRAMPTON, Global Chairman and CEO, Interbrand


Amazon_agold-bookThe Social Employee offers an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at the social business success stories of some of the biggest brand names in the business world, including IBM, AT&T, Dell, Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Cisco, Acxiom, and Domo. These cutting-edge brands have all come to the same realization: the path to social business lies through empowering the social employee.

The brands that leverage their employee base in order to engage customers and prospects through social media are the ones destined to win the marketing wars. This book not only details the astronomical rise of the social employee, but also outlines the innovative methods that leading companies have employed to foster cultures of enthusiastic and engaged workers.

FORMcGrawHill_RedEWORD by David C. Edelman, Global Co-Leader, Digital Marketing & Sales Practice, McKinsey & Company

AFTERWORD by Kevin Randall, Vice President of Brand Strategy & Research at Movéo Integrated Branding, and journalist for The New York Times, The Economist and Vanity Fair.

Download ~> Free Chapter 3 – “Brands Under Pressure”



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