What’s the key to making social learning work in the workplace? At Kineo we believe the key to success is as much a matter of taking stock of what's out there and what's going on (social is after all, happening all the time of its own accord), as it is about making the most of that information to enrich the solutions we design for our clients.
Does formality have a place in informal social learning?
Although there will be stand-alone solutions (Totara Social, for example), informal social learning is more likely to be part of a blend. For example, a solution that includes formal online modules, virtual classroom sessions, a communication campaign - complemented by a forum or community on a tool already used within the business.
The formal elements of the blend can all signpost social opportunities, even put problems and challenges out there that can only be resolved socially through discussion, sharing posts, uploading videos to encourage a more informal learning experience.
Sounds great in theory, but in practice? Formally encouraging people to learn informally - how does that work? As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. But what if the horse is extremely thirsty?
Need to be needed
This highlights an absolute must for social learning to succeed. There must be a reason for participating. As with the consumption of all online content there has to be a really compelling need. In corporate learning this won't be the usual drivers such as the need for diversion, entertainment or idle curiosity, but it can certainly tap into other great drivers such as the need for information, a thirst for knowledge, for help, guidance and advice – in other words, for problem-solving.
My colleague Con Sotidis in Kineo APAC shared the following example of social learning at its best: "...an organisation that empowered their technicians to use their iPhones on the job. When these technicians came across a fault they had not seen before and were struggling to diagnose the fault, they would whip out their iPhone, video themselves on site talking about the fault and their process. They would then upload that to their social platform and seek the support and input from other technicians. By the time the technician had his lunch and a cuppa he had response from others on options he could use and potential solutions. Once again (filming) himself applying these suggestions. This had the added benefit of creating a thread that others could follow later."
Perhaps it's too much to expect social learning to just happen of its own accord. Nor can it be stage managed. Nor can it happen overnight. But if you have to start somewhere my suggestions is to tap into a genuine business need in order to get things up and running. And what better way to do this than to help solve people's problems!
In and out of the workplace, there's no greater way to generate traffic than solving a problem. As well as being useful in helping people do their jobs, the published problems and associated answers also provide the basis for a self-determined, learner-directed curriculum appropriate to contemporary learners in the connected workplace.
So why not start with a problem-solving forum or site? As well as operating as a genuine support tool and being the basis for a learner-directed curriculum, the problem-solving traffic, the posted answers and advice, uploaded videos and threads, can be curated and form the basis for new, more formally delivered content. And of course where there are no answers to questions, these are training and knowledge gaps that can be filled by specially designed content.
So that's that, then. The problem is the solution. The best way to ingrain social learning into the business is to go after the needs, the problems.