Six things you need to know about social learning

by External09 Mar 2015
Successful social learning requires more than choosing a platform and hoping people won’t mind the extra login. Business outcomes like improved sales, productivity, engagement and time to competence can be directly linked to successful social learning initiatives.  
The first thing that you’ll need to do to initiate successful social learning is drop the “training mindset”. Social learning is something you enable, not implement. Here are five tips to help you on your way.
  1. Quick wins for users
To the staff, your social learning project is a change – something new for them to understand and spend time on. No matter how powerful the need or how brilliant the solution, to succeed the users will need to see its value to them immediately. Don’t start with an empty community and expect them to fill it with wonderful content, seed it with great initial content, topics and connections to people they respect.
  1. Lead from the top
In every successful social learning rollout we’ve seen the active presence and engagement of the CEO and leaders is a key factor. It’s vital that social leaning initiatives are led from the top with regular content from influencers, leaders and experts. The participation of senior leadership is vital because by participating, people have a sense that they are in a community with decision makers (who are suddenly more accessible). It’s motivating for people to feel they can influence others.
  1. Understand what motivates your people
The factors that motivate staff to share on social media in their personal lives do not transfer to their workplace. You need to identify and leverage very different motivators such as gamification and KPI measurement in order for it to succeed within the organisation.
Enabling social learning in an organisation requires an understanding of what motivates people to share and engage – from the most senior manager to a temp. Other big motivators include access to a network of peers to assist them in their daily tasks and the ability to earn social capital by sharing and helping others. Wherever your participants are on their learning journey, both you (and they) need to understand what’s in it for them.
  1. Social can be a single point of truth
What we see in successful social learning organisations is that the social platform rapidly becomes the “single source of truth” within the organisation where all staff will go to for answers and so it needs to integrate with, and sometimes over time replace, existing knowledge management, intranet and CMS systems.

One of the things often misunderstood about social learning is that the right solution isn’t an add-on– it’s actually a new knowledge core. Social learning tools are uniquely positioned to offer both content, and context – not only being able to easily find the document you need – but comments that can tell you it’s out of date or link you to other information.
  1. A platform is not a solution
A social learning platform won’t automatically enable good social learning experiences, although a bad one can prevent them. The right solution is one that starts with a strategy including all four of these points and then involves a platform, team and leadership that support it effectively.
About the author
David Hegarty is a learning expert and General Manger of Cadre, a Navitas business