Corporate Training & e-Learning Blog

Tuesday

New Learning Tool: Instant Messaging!

Our company has been using instant messaging (IM) for two years and wouldn't live without it! It is by far the most effective and efficient method of communication today. In fact, 90% of organizations already have IM on their networks, and some analysts predict that IM will outpace email. IMs take mere seconds to write, send, and receive a response back. They are quick and informal.

While considered a bit more aggressive - and therefore more efficient - than emails, IMs are less intrusive than phone calls. Despite my extroverted personality, I prefer people to contact me at work via IM, email, or phone - in that order.

As a simple communication tool (we'll get to how it can be a learning tool in a minute), IM offers several benefits:

1. IM users can easily see who else is online and available. Users should set up their IM program to log in automatically upon turning on their PCs each morning. That way they do not have to remember to do this separately. Whenever desired, users can set their IM to "away" to indicate they are not currently available (when they are out for lunch or a meeting, for instance).
2. IM users can get immediate responses to their IMs, which can increase productivity.
3. IMs are conveniently accessed from PCs and mobile devices, so IM apps can be used both at the office and on the road.
4. An IM can be an online conversation between two people or a group of people.
5. IM allows you to multitask (something I do all the time!): A user can respond to email, participate on a conference call, and respond to instant messages at the same time.

How can trainers and managers use IM as a learning tool? Let us count the ways in which IM contributes to knowledge-sharing:

1. If struggling with a procedure, it's easier and quicker to IM someone than to take the time to hunt down the answer in a user manual. IM can provide an immediate response and save time.
2. Managers can use IM to coach their staff. Managers tend to be more direct and honest in their IMs and emails than in person; and employees are often more likely to ask for help.
3. Trainers can offer "online office hours" by setting time each week when learners can contact them online and get immediate replies to their inquiries.
4. In the same way, trainers can offer "Ask the Trainer" sessions around specific topics the trainer determines and broadcasts in advance.
5. Group chats via IM can bring peers together to discuss specific topics or situations. It can be a powerful way to connect participants and co-workers.

Always keeps IM conversations short and end them gracefully when the chat is over. When used properly, IM is a terrific tool that can accelerate learning within any organization!

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