Social collaboration and social learning hot topics for anyone in the organizational development or training fields. It’s new, trendy and, for the most part, a complete failure.
Current market offerings are not providing the social learning tools organizations need. Enterprise social networks that could potentially be used for social learning, like Jive and Yammer, have an under 20 percent engagement rate.
Major talent management technology companies, like SuccessFactors and Cornerstone, have LMSes that offer what they call “social learning capabilities,” but these are limited to sharing content, commenting on or rating existing content. These social components are ineffective when it comes to facilitating actual learning. Facilitating learning involves the transfer of knowledge or skills; commenting or rating an item does not constitute knowledge transfer.
The impact that any of these technologies has had to date is minimal, if measurable at all. So where and why are all of these efforts falling short?
It’s about setting expectations and enabling success.
Social learning may be a new term, but the concept is not new — we just used to call it informal learning. In a study I conducted of a 150-employee workforce in 2009, I found that if employees tracked all of their learning experiences, not only formal training that is instructor-led or e-learning, more than 60 percent of their learning was informal. These included: job shadowing, peer-to-peer learning, attending cross-departmental meetings and similar self-managed learning opportunities. When surveyed, employees felt that the informal opportunities were just as valuable, if not more, than the formal learning opportunities. Based on those results, here is what the organization set out to do.
1. Empower employees to learn: We set the expectation that all employees would need to track a minimum of 65 hours of professional development per year. Outside of some organizational or departmental required training, they could decide on their own what their professional development would consist of. We increased our efforts related to marketing the various opportunities for development: job shadowing, mentoring, upcoming courses, etc. Throughout the year we marketed not only the opportunities, but also the trends: What are your peers learning about? How many sessions have they done? What is the average number of hours of training per employee?
2. Empower employees to share: Employees are the No. 1 source of knowledge and information at any organization. Setting a clear expectation that employees should share their knowledge with each other is the first step toward building peer-to-peer learning networks. Organizations should encourage employees to set up their own training sessions, whether they are peer-to-peer or large groups. If employees need to go through human resources or the training department, this can only hold up the process and momentum.
3. Provide the tools: The third and key step to social learning is providing all employees with the tools needed to share knowledge with each other. All employees need searchable profiles, collaboration tools like video chat, screen share and file sharing, forums for sharing knowledge and ideally, some level of integration between all of these. It amazes me how many sophisticated organizations still lack some of the most basic collaboration tools.
4. Recognize the effort: Tracking all of the social learning happenings allows organizations to recognize, and even reward, those who participate and contribute. By recognizing the efforts and results, organizations are ensuring that employees see the value and will continue their participation.
Organizations have an opportunity to develop their knowledge and skill base through social learning. The tools, know-how and need are there. Now we just have to pull it all together.Filed under: Learning Delivery