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Going Beyond Google: How You Can Learn (and Teach) in the Workplace

When I first started at Walker Sands back in January, I wrote that I could tell my internship experience was going to be a unique one. Five months later, I’m happy to say that I was right. And as I’m preparing to wrap up my time here, I thought I’d share one of my favorite facets of the company that I think really sets it apart from many others in the industry: its commitment to increasing employee knowledge. I’ve found that the information that I learned from my co-workers has been every bit as practical as the things that I have learned from experience. Below, you’ll find three of the most important lessons that this internship and company has taught me about sharing information in a work environment.

Go beyond Twitter to send links in a personal way.

Most of us blast out industry news to our social networks throughout the work week. We’re constantly sharing meaningful articles, quippy thoughts, and relevant ideas to improve the understanding of a particular topic for those who follow us. But even if your entire office is Twitter-savvy, it’s still important to keep some knowledge sharing personal. Send e-mails to those people with whom the article would resonate. Share with the people sitting next to you. Talk about new concepts face-to-face over lunch. Create a two-way dialogue that fosters learning far beyond the limits of an article’s text.

One example that springs to mind comes from my supervisor, Jackie. On Twitter, she’s a pro at information sharing in the marketing and public relations space. For most people, sharing information on these social networks is enough. But Jackie takes it one step further and picks out the articles that are especially relevant to Walker Sands and sends an e-mail with a link, a short description, and how it applies to our work.

Sifting through all of the social media noise to find those links that have some sort of meaning to the culture of your workplace and sending them to your co-workers in a more personal way is a quick approach to ignite a cycle of learning within your organization.

Listen and share accordingly.

One of my most memorable learning moments at Walker Sands came shortly after I had a brief conversation with our company’s president, Mike. I had mentioned to him that I was really interested in understanding people – what motivates them, what makes them connect with something, why they make the choices they do. When I came into work the next day, I found a book that was about how to make use of the combination of the disciplines of marketing and psychology sitting on my desk with a short note from Mike.

Even though it was awesome of him to pass along the book, I thought that the best part of the whole experience was that it showed Mike was really thinking about our conversation in a way that would increase my own knowledge about a topic that I had expressed an interest in. Listening – and really listening – to your co-workers is a great thing in and of itself, but using the insights that you glean from those conversations to create a teachable moment is even better. When conversing with people in your office, try to think about if you have seen, read, or heard anything that might relate to their personal or professional interests and pass it on.

Use what you’ve got.

It’s important to remember that everyone within your work environment provides an opportunity for learning. Walker Sands makes use of all of its different employees’ expertise by hosting monthly Lunch and Learns, in which one member of the team shares what they know about a particular topic, like social media or search engine optimization.

Walker Sands also does a lot of internal teaching across disciplines. I asked one of our senior account executives, Kari, to explain an example of this that she thought was particularly helpful for both the public relations and web team. “For one of our clients, in our PR outreach, we were doing a lot of contributed blog posts. We found that these posts were helping our clients’ search engine rankings. So now, the web team uses contributed blog posts as another tool to help their search engine optimization clients.”

In other words, create and encourage a work environment where team members can use each other as a leading source of information.

Do you find the things you’ve learned from your workplace to be beneficial? How does your office perpetuate a cycle of learning?