Hamburg, 05/29/2017 | Story | Company “We have to re-learn how to learn”

When a colleague teaches you how the intranet works or explains the benefits of the new PEN, that’s social learning. Why? Because you learn from one another via social interaction. Head of Knowledge Management Dr Uta Renken explains why this way of learning is important, and how Olympus can become a learning organization.

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The Olympus intranet rollout was the first EMEA-wide Olympus project to make use of social learning. Instead of organizing workshops in which someone explained how the new intranet worked, each subsidiary looked for volunteer guides to work alongside the official intranet managers. A total of 145 employees volunteered to teach their colleagues about the intranet. Beyond the rollout, the guides remain available for questions, problems or suggestions, and show their colleagues how the intranet can be used. “The Olympus.connect launch worked so well because it was a project designed by employees for employees – and it still is,” says Uta. “Everyone has a go-to person they can turn to on site. At the same time, they can see how everyone else uses Olympus.connect. By watching other people, they get to learn how it works.” says Uta. “And that’s exactly the principle behind social learning.” The same approach was adopted during the SAP launch. ‘Key users’ were assigned to each job category but the principle stayed the same – employees were encouraged to share their expertise with their colleagues.

Can you show me something?

Putting helpfulness to good use

Olympus.connect and SAP are major Olympus projects that integrate new ways of learning. But social learning happens at every level of the organization. From sharing knowledge when we onboard new employees to the close cooperation between senior managers looking to develop their skills through the Leadership Competence program. This new trend could help make Olympus fit for the future. “We’re living through the digital transformation. We don’t know what the future will bring, so we have to keep pace with all the latest developments,” says Uta, who studied information systems management in detail during her PhD. “The only way to do that is to keep on learning from each other,” she says.

“Our employees are already more than willing to help each other out. Now more than ever we need to tap into that attitude, by re-learning how we learn.” Dr. Uta Renken, Head of Knowledge Management

Employees are networking and communicating better than ever, but there’s more to it than that. It’s also important to safeguard knowledge when employees leave the company. “Before long-serving employees retire, we want to get in touch with them and secure some of their know-how,” explains Uta. “By systematically gathering their expertise, we aim to prevent any important knowledge being lost.” A tough ask indeed.

Helping the helpers

It’s three years since Uta established the Knowledge Management department. Olympus.connect was the first project for a team that now has four members. As Uta explains, “Our main job is to lay down a framework that improves the way we share our knowledge. We develop strategies for our colleagues and help with implementation. For example, we support project community planning or help them pass responsibilities over to other colleagues. It’s about helping the helpers, basically.” The long-term goal is to anchor the transfer and use of knowledge more deeply in the company culture than ever before. And to make Olympus a learning organization that is perfectly prepared for the future, whatever it may bring.