Summer 2017
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CTDO Magazine

Social Media + Employee Learning = High Performance

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Today, seven in 10 American adults are social media users, with Facebook being the most widely used platform, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center. With so many employees already using social technologies in their personal lives to connect with one another and share and gather information, it's only natural that many forward-looking companies have leveraged social media for learning.

A new study from the Association for Talent Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity reports that 54 percent of organizations use social media for employee learning, and users saw better learning and market performance than non-users. But, even among social media users, some organizations were clearly ahead of the pack. The report, Social Learning: Developing Talent Through Connection, Contribution, and Collaboration, shows that at the very top-performing companies, employees used social media to create and share their own learning content.


So, how do talent development leaders encourage employees to share user-generated content on social media? First, they should approach other business leaders and ask them to model desired behaviors by becoming active contributors of content to social learning programs. Consider the example of global financial services and insurance company American International Group, more commonly known as AIG, which is currently in the process of rolling out online learning communities for its thousands of managers, with the help of senior leaders.

"We may start encouraging people to contribute content by choosing 20 or so leaders, then asking them to pick topic areas and start conversations on Yammer," says Pat Martin, senior manager of leadership development at AIG.

Second, to reinforce engagement and sustain a social learning program once it is launched, market-leading firms track user-generated content and reward or recognize those employees that regularly share valuable content.


Finally, the report notes that culture is one of the main factors in determining the success of social learning programs. Employees must feel empowered, trusted, and motivated to contribute. Therefore, the report recommends regular audits of corporate culture. Talent development executives should ask if their organization has these culture characteristics:

  • A supportive environment for choosing and implementing social learning. Are leaders and employees tech savvy? Are they receptive to new ideas and ways of learning? Is collaboration emphasized? Does your organization have the technology needed to enable social learning?
  • An atmosphere that emphasizes trust. Will your employees use social media appropriately? Does your workforce feel safe sharing information? Does senior management trust its workforce to do the right thing?
  • A learning culture. Is learning valued in your organization? Do employees readily share new skills and knowledge? Do all employees have consistent access to learning opportunities?

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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