Find Your Learning and Development Influencers
Social media has officially embedded itself into corporate learning and development, and that’s a good thing for the companies using L&D platforms. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, learners who use social features watch 30 times more hours of learning content than those who don’t.
These features, which include like and share options, learning groups and Q&A discussions, create a sense of connection within a largely virtual learning environment.
“It gives learners a way to engage that wasn’t possible before,” said Amy Borsetti, senior director for LinkedIn Talent Solutions. “It’s a hook that brings them back.”
The pandemic amplified this social learning trend, as employees sought more ways to connect remotely and learn new skills. “During the great reshuffling, people began rethinking their careers and how they can quickly get the skills they need to rebuild,” Borsetti said.
The combination of COVID-imposed isolation and the need for upskilling made social features the perfect meeting point for learners eager to engage with others. For organizational leaders, that means taking a page from the world of TikTok, Instagram and Twitter and identifying your influencers.
Learning Is Social
Social engagement has always been an important part of the face-to-face learning process. The social features in virtual learning platforms help to replicate that experience.
When a respected person recommends a piece of content, learners are more likely to seek it out and spend more time in the learning environment. That leads to more time spent on development and skill building and contributes to the culture of learning at the company.
It's the natural evolution of learning and development platforms. The goal has always been to become the first destination people go to when they seek to acquire knowledge or a new skill.
“Learning platforms are replicating what learners used to seek out on the internet,” Borsetti said.
But unlike YouTube or Twitter, the content hosted on these platforms has been vetted and curated to ensure it delivers quality, value and accuracy.
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Building a Learning Community
Today, thanks to the rise of social features, this content can also come with a seal of approval. When a peer shares an article, likes a video or rates a piece of content, it helps learners confidently curate their learning library.
“It gives credibility to the content,” said Kelly Palmer, chief learning and talent officer for Mountain View, Calif.-based edtech company Degreed.
Just as Yelp reviews help consumers choose a restaurant, learning and development ratings and reviews help employees figure out which material is worth their time. Learners can also follow people they respect — within their organization or outside of it — to see what they're learning and recommending.
“It transforms the learning platform into a learning community,” Palmer said. That credibility adds value to the learning experience and saves learners time sorting through all the information available to find what they need.
Engagement with social features can also help L&D leaders track the type of content that adds the most value, Palmer said. The data can show who's liking and sharing content, how much a course gets shared and the discussions that emerged from those lessons.
“It can help them build a more engaging learning environment,” she said.
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Who Are Learning and Development Influencers?
The adoption of social features in L&D programs has given rise to a new generation of influencers who promote content as part of their personal brand. And L&D leaders should pay attention.
“They are creators and the connectors who influence decision-making in a company,” Borsetti said. If these influencers like or share a piece of content, others in the organization are more likely to look at it.
Of course, not everyone has the same influence over learning journeys. Typically, an HR or L&D leader will try to foster engagement by building learning journeys and liking content. But this kind of corporate-sponsored buzz isn’t likely to cause much of a stir. While learning leaders can recommend content or require teams to complete, it’s not an endorsement that learners will value.
Learners want authentic recommendations shared by peers. L&D leaders might, therefore, want to encourage influencers within their organization to promote material they believe adds value, without forcing it. Some ways to do that include running internal campaigns to promote popular courses or using leaderboards to inspire friendly engagement or spotlight those who post reviews and share content.
These kinds of encouragements foster engagement without demanding people “like and share” for every course they complete.
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Use Journeys and Employee Groups to Guide Social Learning
L&D leaders can also build learning journeys for specific employee groups, like recent hires or new managers, to create a subculture of learners around a set of content.
In these environments, comments and shares occur within that peer group, making it relevant to their current work and helping them build their personal network.
All of that takes effort and focus on the part of organizational leaders. “Using social features won’t just happen,” Palmer said.
But if companies give people time to learn and encourage influential employees to use social features, it will help to inspire greater adoption across the team.