Virtually speaking – employee avatars

IBM Canada takes T&D to whole new level with online speed mentoring
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/30/2009

Not many companies have a floating boardroom where employees from different countries can come together to learn. Even better, they can make themselves look like anyone — a bald man with an earring, a short woman with a funky fashion sense — while they walk around and interact with each other.

The magic of the virtual world is transforming how IBM conducts business, particularly when it comes to training and development. The 400,000-employee organization has tens of thousands of avatars — virtual projections of employees used in a 3-D computer environment — involved in various worlds, one of which is a speed mentoring facility in the virtual world of Second Life.

IBM Canada has had several kinds of formal mentoring for years, from the short term to the long term, but it was missing the opportunity to have something more ad hoc, where people could easily come together but not demand too much time or effort from executives, managers or seasoned IBMers, says Chuck Hamilton, virtual learning leader for IBM Canada in Vancouver.