“As designers of learning, we ask ourselves, ‘How does this affect what they do in their job? What do we want them to do with this information?’” she said. “If you can’t answer these questions, maybe your learner doesn’t need to know what you’re teaching.”
One purpose for social learning discussions is to get employees to consider new ideas that could help them, and the company, perform better. “It’s important in this type of format for people to not only be open to listen to other people’s ideas, but really listen with the intent to change their mind,” said Stacie Mallen, vice president of human resources at Ulthera Inc., a medical device company in Mesa, Ariz.
While instructor-led and online training usually is developed using adult education philosophy, social learning is often completely hands-off, said Chris Lennon, director of product management at talent management software company SilkRoad Technology Inc.
Lennon said SilkRoad incorporates social learning tools within instructor-led training programs for its own employees. Learning executives can facilitate by posting questions or real-world problems that need to be solved, and they can suggest that certain people chime in or elaborate on their comments. “But they don’t overtake the conversation,” he said. “The more learning executives try to control social learning, the less employees will feel involved.”
Today corporate silos are common, and getting employees in one department to trust those in another on social platforms can be tricky. Salespeople might regard engineers as geeky, and engineers might view salespeople as jerky, said Rosemarie Christopher, president and CEO for the MEIRxRS family of science, technology, engineering and mathematics placement companies in Glendale, Calif.
She said learning leaders can overcome that challenge by getting savvy department leaders to rephrase discussion prompts where necessary. This will increase engagement and help to develop a culture of collaboration across departments.