Expert View

How ING Wholesale Banking Supports Informal Learning

Amsterdam (NL), February 2008 - (by Jean In het Panhuis, Head Innovative Learning ING Wholesale Banking) ING Wholesale is an international wholesale bank with about 12,000 employees. The Learning & Development department within ING Wholesale Banking supports and optimizes the process of informal learning and uses all kinds of technology solutions. People acquire most of their skills and knowledge in regard to wholesale banking in an informal way.

Our challenge as a learning department is to enhance the effectiveness of these informal learning processes by applying technology- enhanced learning solutions. Because we think informal learing is important we incorporated it in our mission.

Connect people with people and people with the right information

With SharePoint and Wikis, we facilitate connections between people and connect people with the right information. With rapid eLearning tools, we support the business in capturing business-critical knowledge. With game-based learning and especially quiz games, we make learning more engaging and fun.

SharePoint is a Microsoft platform that facilitates the creation of websites for information exchange and online collaboration within a specific group or an entire organisation. It offers numerous functionalities that can be tailored to the wishes of the audience and is relatively simple to deploy: advanced IT expertise is not necessary to create a knowledge-sharing environment.

The platform is available as a service that can be applied and configured to meet the specific needs of the organization's environment. In the beginning, it was mainly used by IT departments, but we at ING Wholesale Banking have implemented it in a way that is directly related to our business.

Some senior managers operating in a global business line wanted to have a blog to interact more direct with their employees. Besides a blog and discussion groups related to it, we also added the opportunity to launch surveys. This is a way for management to communicate about the strategy and other issues and provides two-way interaction.

It is also a way for employees to share their ideas about issues with higher management and shape the strategy together. It also shows the support of higher management for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Does it work? The answer is that it depends heavily on the manager who uses the blog. If he invests enough time to keep it alive, there's true interaction.

The strategy with the introduction of the SharePoint environment has been to create a system that adds value in the daily work of employees first, and secondly, provides them with a platform to share business-critical knowledge. The direct use of the tool in their work familiarizes them with the technology. The SharePoint portals that are created often replace the more traditional communication channels. (We mainly use Sharepoint because it is available within our infrastructure.)

Capture knowledge with rapid eLearning tools

Besides offering a platform to share knowledge, we use various rapid eLearning tools to create short, interactive eLearning modules of 5-15 minutes length that help the business to capture knowledge or to roll out new product procedures or systems.

We currently use a mix of rapid eLearning tools. One combination is Articulate in conjunction with PowerPoint. The latter is widely used in the business to communicate and share knowledge, but the information value of the standard PowerPoint presentation is very limited because slide notes and audio are often missing. Using Articulate, it becomes possible to add audio and interactive components like a quiz, FAQ, glossary, and diagrams to a PowerPoint presentation.

If business wants to capture a presentation, they can use our knowledge debriefing service. Within an hour we can capture a best practise by transforming a powerpoint presentation into an interactive eLearning module.

Furthermore, we used PowerPoint templates to create quiz games to play with groups, and high-value specialists even created their own quiz-games. The experience we've gathered with game-based learning over the last three years has convinced us of its added value, and as a result, we've gone on to develop an in-house rapid tool for quiz and game development called "At One Go".

The effort was sponsored by the innovation department of ING, and together with a game expert who develops game formats for TV, we developed the first game format that works on this authoring system. The game is called "SPRINT!", and it was build by an external eLearning company called Solvolution.

"At One Go" is an easy-to-use rapid eLearning game-based authoring tool that makes it possible to create quiz questions with feedback and links to knowledge bases. The front end is the advanced 'Olympic' quiz game called "SPRINT!", which consists of a multiplayer version (MP), a single-player version (SP), and the Finals.

The objective of the multiplayer version is to reach the finish first and earn as many as points or as much virtual money as possible. Every player is placed in the Hall of Fame, but the winner of each round has the opportunity to play the Finals. The Finals is a rock-climbing game where the user can earn extra points and a medal.

The authoring system behind SPRINT! - "At One Go" - is very flexible. All game elements can be tailored. Variables like info function, answering times, and strategic game elements (on/off) can be set per game without programming. SPRINT! will also be available as a commercial product.

It's not about technology; it's all about learning culture

Tools can enable networking and knowledge transfer, but without creating a learning culture where collaboration and teamwork is valued and there is a chance for daily practice, the tools are hardly used. It is therefore very important to focus on the change component of informal learning.

Learning, knowledge sharing, the power of multi-discipline work groups solving certain business issues, and teamwork are key to driving innovation for business purposes. However, only facilitating these processes with new media possibilities is not enough. It is also important to create a culture in which employees assume responsibility for their own career and learning and are connected with the right people to share the knowledge necessary for optimal job performance.

In this culture, it is also important to support and value the behaviour I have just described. Establishing a real learning culture and giving it high priority take time and demand other inputs and resources as well.

In order to show the direct impact that learning and knowledge sharing have on business performance, my advice is to focus and support the business in reaching its most strategic business objectives. Helping them see and comprehend how new technologies can be used to reach their business objectives is absolutely crucial.