Social Media Can Enhance Employees' Learning

By Bill Leonard May 20, 2015
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ORLANDO, Fla.—The reasons to add social media to corporate learning programs shouldn’t be because you can or because others are doing it—or even because social media is fun—explained Dan Steer, a freelance learning consultant, trainer and speaker based in Brussels, Belgium.

Instead, the following may be considered worthy reasons to use social media during training programs or other corporate learning opportunities: It would improve employees’ learning, it would encourage more sociability among participants and it would help create engagement in the program.

“Focus on the right reasons, and then you will have a clear idea of your objectives and what your organization wants to achieve,” Steer said during a high energy session at the Association for Talent Development International Conference & Exposition on May 18, 2015.

Training and HR professionals who want to use social media to its greatest effect should incorporate it before, during and after employee training sessions. The steps involved are easy, Steer said, and it is something “you can begin doing today that will add immediate value to your organization’s formal learning programs.”

First, he said, before a session is scheduled to start, trainers should create a community space on a site like LinkedIn so that participants can meet and share ideas, opinions and concerns about the upcoming training session. Trainers can also create content that explains the purpose and learning objective of the session.

Steer showed the audience two videos that used different approaches; one was fairly straightforward and introduced the session leader and what participants should expect. The second video used humor through a series of still shots that were interspersed with directions and suggested readings for an upcoming session.

“I guarantee you that both these videos were very easy to do and took much less time and effort than you would expect,” he said. “And the value added is that participants who watched got a good idea what the learning objectives are.”

Steer recommended using social media before a training session to:

  • Share expectations and the session agenda.
  • Introduce the trainer.
  • Provide material to prepare for the training.

Steer said that both trainers and organizers must participate in this social media effort. He said the “holy triangle” of social media is to give/ask/thank.

“If you’re asking others to share in social media, then you must participate too,” he said. “You need to express your enthusiasm and demonstrate why the training program is important.”

Next, during a training session, rely on social media tools such as Gingko App for collaborative note-taking. Each group can input its ideas and notes, which are then compiled into a single document and easily shared either during or after the session.

“It’s really cool, because you can compile the document, share it on LinkedIn or the community space,” Steer said. “That is a tremendously helpful tool. Plus it can create a lot of interaction among the participants as they look over and discuss the session notes.”

He offered these tips on how to use social media for follow-up after a training session is complete:

  • Collect references and feedback on the session.
  • Use social media bookmarking to provide session participants with further resources and connections.
  • Create virtual bookshelves with links to books and resources that were used to develop the training session or that can enhance learning efforts.

“This is all about sharing, so just work with it and find the best options that suit your style and your organization’s culture,” he said. “Just remember that the practical use of social media does improve formal learning.”

Bill Leonard is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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