Knowledge transfer is crucial to the oil and gas industry when you think of the complex and highly technical operations in the sector. This post shall explore how knowledge platforms can enable a learning culture within organisations and enhance knowledge transfer from experienced talent to newer employees within a company or indeed the industry. It will also partially present the BP Hub – an online & informal learning platform.

Brain Power - BP Hub

The oil and gas industry has been a leader in terms of the development and deployment of knowledge management techniques as business demands has taken the industry to explore further frontiers. Also the pressure of safety and environmental responsibility has made them to embrace technology to improve operations. Surprisingly, knowledge loss prevails as an actual threat to the industry.

According to the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE), by 2020 there’s an estimated of 231,000 years of cumulative experience and knowledge that will be lost to the industry due to retirement of engineers and other technical staff; so companies are making smarter investments in knowledge management.

Chevron’s former CEO, Ken Derr explained:

“We learned that we could use knowledge to drive learning and improvement in our company (…) Every day that a better idea goes unused is a lost opportunity. We have to share more, and we have to share faster”.

It’s quite clear that knowledge platforms are invaluable to organisations. However by providing access to large volumes of unstructured data, including information, how-tos and best practices into a portal, this may have a counter-productive effect.

Concerns made by employees describing these platforms range from from large and clunky to redudant and overwhelming. If a knowledge platform is not adopted by employees, this is certainly a loss to Learning and development.

Knowledge sharing and Informal learning at BP

Nick Shackleton-Jones, Director, Online & Informal Learning at BP have shared insights on this subject at the Oil & Gas HR Summit 2013 London and other HR / learning events.

His thoughts on knowledge platforms and learning solutions are based on past experiences with building learning portals and expecting people to use it.

Prior to BP, he worked for an employer where he worked on developing a knowledge hub, but found that it was not engaging enough for the employees.

Creating valuable content

His findings highlighted the concept of valuable when it comes to learning hubs:

  • Employees can take out tangible and useful information from the content displayed and then apply it on a daily basis
  • The content is directly related to the business needs so it has a real meaning to the employee

By incorporating the concept of “valuable” into the knowledge platform strategy, L&D teams are able to break down multiple sources of information and be the ‘curators’ of content following different guidelines; this means to evaluate the quality of each content and how it will impact the final user (employee).

Making content attractive

With the rapid rise in modern design and the transformations in how people consume and engage with digital content, knowledge platforms must also pass the “attractiveness” test. Millenials are more attracted to visual content over written content.

Attention spans are shorter and people are more interested and interact better with subtle and stimulating graphics. This should creat an opportunity to develop high quality content that would engage your audience by matching what they may have been used to in their everyday online experience.

Knowledge attractiveness could be broken down into three practical subjects:

Storytelling: BP linked each module of knowledge to others by following a storyline criteria which guided them throughout all the stages (core values, operational information, technical information, company’s history, etc). This is a proven technique that makes the information journey very appealing.

Visual aid & user experience: Infographics, video tutorials, graphs and a thoughtful use of colours, graphic design and formats helped BP to share knowledge effectively. Also, they followed user experience best practices to create a user journey that heighthens engagement and improves experience.

A multichannel approach: BP developed and made this knowledge / learning platform available on multiple platforms, PC, tablets and mobile so employees can use it wherever they may be, and on the go.

Knowledge can be social

Knowledge and learning also have to be “social”. The word social has been largely attributed to social media, due to the rise in its usage and the connotations and the implications of social media adoption in the workplace. However, there are clear differences between social media and social learning.

Social media is mostly referred to those interactions we do online – likes, comments, retweets, shares – but not all of these are related to learning, at least not uniquely.

Social learning, instead, involves ascribing our human nature of social interactions and to embed them in the learning process, so it becomes ’emotional’ and meaningful to people.

Nick has talked extensively about the BP Hub, an online & informal learning platform. The main focus of the BP Hub was content generation that will help employees learn about the business and ‘how tos’, with short videos about specific tasks in order to do their jobs done effectively and safely.

The BP Hub had around 1000 pieces of content – which was mostly unscripted video content from people in the business around the world, and users can rate content and comment on it.

Considering this and other examples of building learning platforms, it will be vital to review some of these questions when developing a knowledge portal:

  • How valuable is the platform to enable employees do their jobs effectively (tangible knowledge, immediate application of knowledge, expertise)
  • What sort of content will be available and in what context / format
  • What employee’s needs are covered by the development / deployment of a knowledge platform?
  • What business need is met with the knowledge soluton?
  • How will investment be measured along the lines of the core organisational strategy?
  • How will employees access, utilise and share content in the platform?
  • How user-friendly will the platform be for them to quickly adopt it quickly?
  • What familiar features could we implement in order to make the platform appealing and visually interactive?
  • How are we going to collect, curate and sort the data?
  • What mechanism will be put in place to secure and protect sensitive?
  • Will the platform incorporate elements of social learning to encourage informality, interactions and deeper levels of engagement?

This is not an exhausive list. But for organisations that are looking at delivering learning and knowledge hubs within their business, it is vital to consider those points above.

And content must meet and pass the valuable, attractive and social test enough to make an impact in the knowledge and learning experience of employees.


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