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  • Pearson: A Neo Way of Collaboration

Collaboration is essential to form a unified company, but it’s a challenging endeavor for large companies that span the globe.  How do you effectively connect employees across continents to engage in project development initiatives? Pearson, a global leader in education, technology and services, has embarked on a solution to close this continental divide with a social media platform called Neo.
Pearson employs 36,000 people in 60 countries and Neo allows employees to connect with each other to share ideas, expertise and information. The platform is a global directory that can be used to search for people in different ways – by job type, experience, region, etc.  Pearson believes that ideas multiply when shared, coining the tagline “Neo. Working as One.” 
Karen Gettman, vice president and director of community & collaboration at Pearson, has been the backbone of this design initiative to construct a product that will connect employees and ultimately generate collaboration that would not have been possible otherwise.  The Neo platform emerged as an idea from Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino, who travels to various Pearson locations and would be thrilled to hear stories from around the company, but wanted to hear more regularly what was going on around Pearson.  She wanted a virtual environment to communicate and collaborate within Pearson.
Gettman performed research by talking to employees, listening to what they wanted and tried to determine how this platform would be useful to them.  She also talked to other companies using similar platforms and worked with Jive Software and designers to develop the Neo platform.
Pearson Neo 
Neo launched on February 28, 2011, six months after the initial idea sparked. Within the first two months of the launch there were 20,000 users; over 50 percent employee usage. From an analysis perspective, Neo has made a positive impact on company communication and collaboration.
 “Employees are enjoying finding other people and just connecting,” said Gettman.  “Whether they work from home or in a big office, they are able to connect with people across the world.  It is very exciting for them.”
Neo starts with a profile. Employees complete a profile with their name, job title and description logistics, and there is also space to include a biography, interests, showcase skills, and upload pictures.  Once a profile is created, people can get to work joining or creating groups to connect and communicate.  Users can join both business and personal groups based on similar interests where they can post status updates, documents, articles, blogs, etc.    
Neo has allowed Pearson to institute an environment where employees can learn from one another.
“Before employees go to e-mail to initiate answers for questions, they can go into the platform and see what’s going on in groups.  This is more strategic not a reactive mode,” said Gettman.
Informal education is currently taking place to educate employees with Web exercises on basic social networking skills like creating a blog.  Pearson will eventually formalize learning and development down the road once the platform has taken off.
“Neo is going to keep growing across business,” said Gettman.  “There’s a long way to go with a lot of people who haven’t used Facebook or other social media and who use a more hierarchical method of business.  It’s a different way of thinking, more education is needed.”
Technology has changed the way collaboration occurs over the past few centuries.  It takes ingenuity to find new ways of creating dynamic opportunities for learning.  Pearson takes pride in the way it meets the digital needs of customers, and it wants to do the same for its people.
“In the ‘80s, word processing emerged, e-mail came in the ‘90s, now we’re coming to the era of collective empowerment,” said Gettman.  “We can make things happen more quickly by working together.”    

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