"We're establishing what we call a 'culture of collaboration' to give team members multiple ways of comfortably sharing their knowledge, no matter what their age or title."
Dan Pontefract, Senior Director of Learning at TELUS
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TELUS, a national telecommunications company in Canada, considers its team members vital to its goal of providing superior service. Therefore, it places a high value on learning, which includes leadership and professional development, business and sales, technology, and health and safety learning. Until recently, TELUS handled learning primarily by outsourcing instructor-led experiences for team members. Much of what the company’s individuals learned depended on the knowledge presented by the instructors, and the company was concerned that this was limiting the development of its team members. "Our learning methods were expensive, unscalable, and created the false impression among team members that they needed to attend an event to learn," says Dan Pontefract, Senior Director of Learning for TELUS.
TELUS decided to shift its corporate philosophy from one focused on formal, classroom-based learning to one that also included informal and social learning. As defined within the company’s "Learning 2.0" initiative, informal learning would include webcasts, books, mentoring, coaching, and job rotations, while social learning would comprise videos, blogs, microblogs, and wikis. "We set the goal of making team member education more continuous, collaborative, and connected," says Pontefract.
TELUS decided to support its new learning initiative by creating a social learning solution with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. "Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 specifically resonated with us as a foundation on which we could build," says Pontefract. "The social networking elements alone drew us to SharePoint Server 2010, but we also saw how straightforward the end-user interface could be."
For assistance in envisioning, designing, elaborating, and executing several pilot solutions, TELUS turned to imason, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with which TELUS has had a longstanding relationship. "We had some crazy ideas and whiteboard mock-ups, and imason worked with us to translate them for use in the real world," laughs Pontefract. "There’s no way we’d have been able to develop the pilot solutions without imason we just didn’t have the time or current SharePoint 2010 experience."
TELUS and imason took advantage of out-of-the-box My Sites functionality in SharePoint Server 2010 to create an internal social networking solution in which team members can create their own pages that include their areas of expertise and special skills. Team members will be able to see their positions and others’ in the organization’s hierarchy, connect with colleagues, establish informal groups with people who have common skills, and use the Expert Search functionality to obtain ranked search results as to which TELUS team members have expertise to offer in specific areas.
TELUS launched both the My Communities and My Sites components of SharePoint 2010 for pilot testing in April 2010. A multigenerational group of more than 1,000 users from throughout the company will participate in the pilot, with an enterprise-wide launch in late 2010. "The pilot users will provide valuable feedback to help us ensure that we’re meeting the business objectives that TELUS laid out for the solutions," says Jeff Dunmall, Co-CEO of imason.
Although the company’s learning budget for 2010 is $21 million, TELUS anticipates saving 20 percent of that nearly $5 million in 2011 as a result of its shift toward informal and social learning and its adoption of SharePoint Server 2010. "We’re expecting to better utilize our allotted budget because switching to a more internally focused learning model will be more cost-effective than paying third-party instructors," says Pontefract. "Plus, with SharePoint Server 2010, we’re providing familiar tools that people already know how to use, so we’re not adding to our learning needs."
TELUS expects to further streamline its learning budget as team members become better versed in all the options for informal and social learning. "We anticipate that those cost savings will grow over the next few years as the solutions take hold," adds Pontefract. In fact, the company’s three-year plan is to move to a situation in which formal learning accounts for just 50 percent of its total learning budget.
TELUS team members will have faster access to the specific skills and knowledge areas with which they need help. "There will be no more waiting for the next formal learning session," says Pontefract. "Instead, team members can immediately reach out to the colleagues who already have a level of expertise in a particular area, or they can read wikis and blogs, watch videos, and view content about that area and take part in related discussions."
Concludes Pontefract, "With SharePoint Server 2010, we now have the ability to synchronize our existing Microsoft technology investments, federate non-Microsoft technologies, and use the combined whole to establish and promote a culture of collaboration that easily connects our people, content, and learning."
Read the full case study on Microsoft.com