Social Learning: Re-invented, Re-defined and Re-imagined

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 04.04.10

There are many announcements this month. First and foremost, along with the publication of my book, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Business, 2010), I am also joining partners Karie Willyerd and Rick Von Feldt in a new consulting firm, Future Workplace ( dedicated to innovations in attracting, developing and keeping talent. Please visit our site. I look forward to your comments!

Next, the April issue of CLO Magazine has an article authored by Karie Willyerd and myself called Social Learning Unleashed.

Social learning is becoming even more critical as studies continue to be released like the one at University of California, Berkeley by Peter Lyman and Hal Varian stating that knowledge is doubling every three years, and the interval for doubling appears to be getting even shorter. As if that weren’t enough, analyst firm IDC reported in a recent study that knowledge workers spend on average 2.3 hours per day — 25 percent of work time — searching for critical job information.

For a growing number of companies, the answer to all this change and to the shortening of the shelf life of knowledge is to formalize informal learning so that it is collaborative, immediate, relevant and presented in the context of an individual’s unique work environment. The heart of social learning is usually a social computing platform that includes many of the capabilities of social networking sites that employees use outside of work, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to tag, rate, comment, and network.

Our book, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Business, 2010) has a number of case studies on how companies are developing social learning for the enterprise. Five lessons surface as critical success factors in how companies can plan, develop and launch social learning. These are excerpted from the article and include:

    1. Get senior executives to lead by example. A good way is to have a wiki set up for the work group, and each time an executive sends out a message to the team, provide a link to the wiki.
    2. Build enterprise 2.0 tools into the workflow. Rather than building a community supported by a social platform around extracurricular interests, ensure that the way people get work done relies on going to the platform. If the call center has a knowledge center, the social community and the knowledge center need to be combined. People need fewer places to go, not more.
    3. Develop and seed new communities with content through community managers. Social learning communities are not a case of “if we build it, they will come.” Communities need to be kick-started by recruiting members, seeding the community with content, building performance incentives to contribute and introducing thought-provoking conversation starters.
    4. Consider creating communities as a follow-on to formal training. Wherever there are cohorts, the ability to connect and support can be enabled by social learning platforms. There are many things to learn when starting with a new company or after promotion to a new management role. The ability to connect with others on the path to competence can accelerate performance while providing emotional support.
    5. Err on the side of creating an open culture. Allow as much learner access to communities as possible so that knowledge can pass virally across the organization.

The article Social Learning Unleashed has five more critical success factors in planning designing and launching a social learning pilot. I hope you read the entire article and share your comments here.

What have your learned that is critical to the success of social learning? What should your peers avoid doing?

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