Harnessing Social Media for Learning and Development

Millennial Apocalypse, Employment Branding, Online Employment Branding

Who remembers Intranets?  An innovative development to enable employees to access enterprise wide knowledge.  The concept fell out of favor when it became clear how much effort indexing and signposting was going to take to make knowledge accessible and useful. It was never the game changer originally envisaged.

Some years later along comes social media which advantageously for business, had already gained traction with the population as an integral part of their personal lives. Employees were already familiar with the principles, the purpose and how to utilise the different platforms.

Companies see the opportunities in training and development as well as knowledge sharing in social media applications and are experimenting  with it to promote collaboration and learning amongst employees.  A significant advance on intranets where information transfer was a one way exercise, social media offers data stores that can be updated in real time by all employees.

Imagine a Wiki site in a secure Cloud environment where employees can access the same information no matter in which function they work.  A depository of proprietary, information where employees can comment, post “how to” tips and short cuts. Consider the efficiencies in training and accelerated learning of this type of tool.

While there will always be a place for face-to-face learning , social media can curate knowledge, locate experts, facilitate peer-to-peer support and sustain self-directed learning by helping employees prepare for and embed content from training courses.

Now consider linking video learning with software that can broadcast to any employee that has expressed an interest in a particular topic, process or methodology.  Now everyone is able to immediately reach everyone else inside the company that has a vested interest in an idea, innovation or new development. Consider the implications. One of the biggest challenges experienced by entrepreneurs  is that everything takes longer than they think it will. Innovation is the lifeblood in responding quickly to fickle customers and their changing tastes.

Traditional email, texting and file sharing works when someone is a gate keeper or is handing out tasks, but in a collaborating environment where every member of a team or dispersed internal network is contributing to a solution the functionality of social media platforms work so much more quickly. They keep everyone in the loop simultaneously and contribute to involvement and engagement.

Companies have been listening to their customers chatter on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms for years. Some employers also track commentary by potential candidates about their reputations as employers.  Now think about using these technologies to encourage internal discussion about the workplace and the ability to act quickly on trending topics that appear to negatively affect the work environment. You’ll need to make decisions along the way about anonymous posting and appropriate language but what better way to gather instant insight into how developments and initiatives are affecting employee attitude and to speedily respond.

Many companies are encouraging employees to use social networks e.g. LinkedIn, to connect with other employees, customers and vendors to promote the company’s image externally but others are taking this further and promoting discussion “within the family” as a means of resolving challenges or accelerating enterprise progress.

Social networks can support development generate discussion and engage employees in events before and after they take place, boosting interest, focusing attention and helping to embed learning. In other words expanding  the impact of that face to face training session, the one that people previously forgot as soon as they left the room.

Social media provides a source of content. It can help locate expertise within the organisation and catalogue not only information but insight and interpretation for future reference in a far less burdensome way than the old intranet. Like an intranet employers can use it to store “how to” guides but in addition, can host Q&A forums and discuss training materials with the experts who created them, further improving the effectiveness of training and serving as a permanent record.

Social media blurs the traditional boundaries of learning and development. Pointing to resources promotes learner-led development, allowing people to discover what they need to know when they need to know it. Particularly attractive to fast-paced environments it can provide access to bite-sized learning opportunities enabling employees to undertake development in even a five-minute slot.

Much of the information shared on social media, feeds learning of one form or another and as a knowledge management tool it directly supports individuals’ professional development and contains the potential for transforming how employee development occurs within an organisation.

Allow us to help you develop a social learning strategy. Contact me or our expert Selin Jenkins.

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