It’s a fast-paced, tech-savvy environment, where politicians sign up for Facebook accounts, companies create blogs and discussion forums to communicate with customers, and employees are learning on-the-job from resources such as Wikipedia. In this new age, social media tools are no longer just social applications. It’s evident they have a place in the world of business.
“Social media tools are here to stay,” said Kristin Tillquist, author of Capitalizing on Kindness: Why 21st Century Professionals Need to Be Nice. “As senior executives in companies, we simply must adapt. We have to realize that technology is the way learning is being conducted, the way relationships are being established [and] developed, [and] the way global commerce is being conducted. [Adapting is] just a requisite; it must be done.”
Now may be a better time than ever to do so. Companies can use the current economic situation as an opportunity to experiment with these tools, as they may prove to be a less expensive training option.
“Because the economy is so incredibly difficult right now, it’s important to find ways to develop learning opportunities within a corporation that are not expensive,” Tillquist said. “Look at posting instructional training on YouTube. Instead of gathering everyone and having to pay for all the logistics, you can actually look at some of these tools as a way to do very inexpensive, streamlined training. And it’s still got that novelty element.”
She doesn’t deny there may be some frustration in working with these tools.
“Social media tools in corporate learning are somewhat challenging at this point,” Tillquist said. “The essence of [these] tools is that they are fluid, often spontaneous and dynamic. They allow for a lot of two-way and multilevel feedback. For a corporation to try to control exactly how and when the social media is accessed [is] very difficult.”
While employees may use these applications, just as they might the telephone or e-mail, for personal instead of professional reasons, it’s not impossible to manage, nor is it a unique problem.
“I think that’s our challenge right now [at] this particular junction: How do we make sure technology is a tool that doesn’t fall over into being a trap?” Tillquist said.
To avoid this, she believes organizations need to have realistic policies and expectations in place and communicate them to employees.
While more organizations are starting to embrace these tools, it’s certainly is not ubiquitous at this point.
“It’s something that every major corporation is considering,” Tillquist said. “Because of the economic recessionary times, it’s [being] looked at more and more as a way to not only be mobile and modern and connect with Millennials, but also as a way to save resources and maximize learning opportunities within an organization.”