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Closing the Performance/Effectiveness Gap in Social Learning

Social learning researchIf you tweet at home, should you be Yammering at work? That’s pretty much the question that launched new ATD/i4cp research into organizations’ use of social media as learning tools for employees. Employers are concerned that their workers are used to the reach-out-right-now convenience social media affords in their personal lives and want that same convenience on the job. So many organizations are exploring social media to engage their workers, encourage collaboration and add speed and panache to their learning outreach.

A healthy 54% of the learning professionals surveyed for the research said they included social media among their learning delivery methods. But only 14% of that group said their efforts at social learning were highly effective.

Once you get past Wow, what’s wrong? you can’t help but see that such a big gap between use and effectiveness really means big opportunities for talent development functions to tweak their approaches and cash in on the benefits social learning offers.

A recently published ATD/i4cp white paper, Social Learning—Developing Talent Through Connection, Contribution, and Collaboration, is based on the full collaborative study and gives a quick overview touching on the issues and the payoffs of social learning.

What’s at issue with social learning?

On the issue side of things, nearly as many organizations (46%) did not opt to use social media for learning as the 54% that did. Why? Some of those surveyed said their employees didn’t know how to use social media to learn. Others expressed concerns that productivity would take a nose dive if workers ignored their jobs to spend time on social media. Or maybe they’d share content that wasn’t accurate or that simply didn’t reflect the organization’s views.

Those are valid considerations, but the real culprit is organizational culture. More than half of respondents didn’t use social media for learning because their company cultures wouldn’t support it. Lesson learned? Change that culture! Use of social media for employee learning is strongly linked to better market performance and greater organizational learning effectiveness.

Top companies go for particular payoffs

When it comes to potential payoffs for social learning, there are many.  High-performance companies distinguish themselves by using social media to drive worker collaboration and to quickly deliver current information to employees. Others use social learning to engage, motivate, and retain workers; to connect people with subject matter experts; and to encourage employees to share knowledge by generating content. Some even say social media provides positive benefits by enabling employees to stay in touch with family and friends—presumably during breaks or lunch.

No matter the benefits you’re seeking, i4cp’s Social Learning white paper can help you get started. Download now to learn why experienced talent development professionals caution that launching social learning is only the beginning, and why communication is such a vital piece of the puzzle. Can you feel that performance gap beginning to close?

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.