Make your organisation stronger with social learning

Adriann Haney | 05/08/2013

Last year US companies with 10,000 employees or more spent an average of $46,000 on social tools, according to a recent report from Bersin by Deloitte. This is triple the amount spent two years ago, and contributed to the reported 12% up-spend on training across US companies in 2012. Social learning is something everyone is talking about, but plenty are still waiting to be convinced as to why or how it will benefit their organisation and their people.

So how do we convert the confused and/or sceptical and help them make sense of the what, where and how in this fast-growth field? In 2010 an ASTD study, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, respondents commented on the usefulness of social media tools within the workplace, especially wikis, podcasts and shared workspaces. Since then enterprise-level social learning tools have come on dramatically, and with that the opportunity to facilitate on the go informal learning that seamlessly connects disparate colleagues.  There’s huge potential for businesses that wish to drive forward their operations by taking a new approach to workplace learning.Using Social Media for Learning Gets Better Foothold in Workplace

Before the explosion of social media, formal training, generally instructor-led, was accepted as the the best way to up-skill staff. Charles Jenning’s seminal 70:20:10 framework for learning crystallised the anecdotal theories that we learn best when we do so from our experiences and interactions with others. Jennings claims that our workplace learning can be broken down into three specific types. This can be simplified into 70% from experience on the job, including ‘tough jobs’ where we are taken out of our professional comfort zone,? 20% from people (mostly the boss), and just? 10% from formal courses, qualifications and reading. On his excellent blog, Jennings gives us some actions for L&D managers and leaders to consider when wanting to deliver results through the 70:20:10 framework. It’s pretty clear to us that a well-adopted and user-centric social learning platform would go along way to delivering many of these actions.

So let’s look at one.

Jennings made the valid point that ‘none of us are as smart as all of us’. You already know you have untapped talent within your business, so it only makes sound business sense to embrace it and create a true culture of sharing. Whilst traditional e-learning platforms generally facilitate a “one to many” knowledge transfer process, next generation social tools like Bloomfire allow anyone in an organisation to contribute to a knowledge bank of expertise that others can tap into as and when they need it to help them do their job. Social learning pioneer Jay Cross suggests that this approach leads to the ‘coherent organisation’ – one that works together to move forward and achieve its goals.

A survey by Peter Casebow and Owen Ferguson from Good Practice in 2010 found that informal chats with colleagues and managers were the most frequent type of development activity that happens within a business. In other words, people like to be able to ask questions.

The Bloomfire system has its own questions and answers feature, allowing businesses to formally cement this learning method into everyday practices. Better still, questions can be answered with multimedia content such as video, screencasts and uploaded documents. So, imagine that it comes to your attention that several members of staff, spread across locations, are unsure about a key aspect of their work. Rather than sending out a faceless email addressing the issue, you can quickly post a ‘how to’ video that tackles the issue face-to-face, yet with zero travel costs. Bloomfire is fully mobile and accessible from any device, encouraging staff members to learn anywhere, anytime. With the ability to find and follow experts, run ‘onboarding’ schemes for new recruits, gauge community use and identify sharing trends, there has never been a better solution for organisations wanting a metrics-rich learning and social platform.  And how much easier will it be next time you hit the boardroom for a hefty cheque if you go armed with up to the minute facts and figures on how your people learn?

A comprehensive and collaborative social tool like a Bloomfire can serve to support and revitalise formal face to face learning, not detract from it. For now there is still an important place for classroom and face to face learning, but humans are social learners by design, so embracing this social learning trend now will allow you to contribute to your organisation working smarter, faster.