ATD Blog

Obstacles Abound When Adding Social Media to Corporate Learning

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In 2007, I attended a learning conference that dedicated many of its sessions to the introduction of social media tools. I noted that the presenters’ focus was on the features of the tools; however, the strategies for integrating these technologies effectively into the learning function were not being addressed.

Prior to the conference, I had seen plenty of examples of learning professionals trying to implement the latest technological trends and either encountering obstacles to the integration of the new tools or developing ineffective solutions. These observations triggered a desire to understand the best practices for integrating these technologies into learning.

I conducted my doctoral research in 2012, which explored the obstacles preventing the adoption of social media technologies as part of corporate learning solutions and strategies. The study sought to explain why, despite the successful integration of social media into society, the level of adoption of these technologies by corporate education and training departments has been low. The study consisted of 20 in-depth interviews with corporate learning professionals.


The analysis of the interview data revealed the presence of six main obstacles.

  • Perceived lack of value. Stakeholders (senior and middle managers, learning leaders, learning professionals, legal department, IT, human resources, and learners) fail to recognize the benefits and value of social media in support of corporate learning.
  • Perceived threats to enterprise information assets. Organizations are concerned that using these environments augment the risk of attacks or leaks of information critical to the well-being of the organization.
  • Management’s concern with not having control over the content generated. Management worries about the threat that these technologies can pose to the reputation of the organization. In addition, the study found that there are corporate cultures and practices around knowledge sharing that are not compatible with the principles of social media.
  • Lack of internal expertise to implement and moderate social learning solution. Several participants indicated that they do want to use these technologies but lack the knowledge and skills on how to integrate them effectively into learning solutions.
  • Lack of learner readiness for social media learning environments. The perception of information overload is an obstacle to having learners dedicate time in social media activities. Management believes that they are protecting their employees by opposing the introduction of additional sources of information.
  • Lack of people, financial, or technical resources. The majority of the issues in this area involved the learning professionals’ time that would be needed to implement and sustain these learning environments.

Social media can transform corporate education by enabling environments of collaborative learning. Although achieving this transformation will not be easy or quick given the type of obstacles that learning professionals will have to overcome, the benefits of social media in support of corporate education are still worth pursuing.
To be successful in the integration of these tools, learning departments will need to consider their stakeholders, work on the value proposition, enhance their knowledge and skills on the integration of these technologies as part of learning solutions, and ensure that the time needed to support these learning environments effectively is allocated accordingly.

About the Author

Luis Estrada’s experience has focused on the design and implementation of learning strategies in support of research and development groups.  His recent academic work explored the best practices for the adoption of social media by corporate learning.  Dr. Estrada completed his bachelor degree in Computer Sciences from Harding University and his Ph.D. in Information Technology Education from Capella University.

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