Are you intrigued by the possibilities of leveraging user-generated content or looking to manage the process more effectively? It’s never been easier to help employees build their knowledge collaboratively and take control of their learning.

User-generated content is commonly deployed in marketing, where brands invite and curate consumer contributions as a way of increasing their reach and fostering a sense of authenticity. However, this approach is also proving popular in L&D, with many learning tools, such as learning experience platforms (LXPs), making it easier than ever for companies to facilitate and share content created by learners.

It’s hard to quantify how many organizations are using user-generated learning content, but a commonly cited statistic is from Gartner’s 2015 report “Predicts 2016: HCM Applications Transform to Support the Emerging Digital Workplace,” which estimated that it’s around 80% of organizations.

At the same time, enterprise social media tools are accelerating organizational transformation and innovation, partly driven by what happens outside the workplace: People share and interact with content on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. YouTube saw a tenfold increase in the time spent on its site between 2007 and 2017, rising to become the second-largest search engine in the U.S. Formal learning and informal tutorials make up a significant part of the 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute.

How can you capitalize on the immense popularity of user-generated content creation and tap into the vast knowledge within your organization at the same time?

Why Creating User-generated Content Works

When used well, social learning is worth being excited about. McKinsey research suggests that some industries could increase their highly skilled knowledge workers’ productivity by 20% to 25% if they fully implemented social technologies.

Why? The more people can learn from each other, experience a free flow of ideas and information, and receive expert feedback, the more likely they are to quickly build the knowledge they need to perform better.

Consider these tried-and-tested workplace learning methods:

  • Observing others at work.
  • Trying out skills and receiving direct feedback.
  • Collaborating and discussing concepts with others.
  • Reading, watching and listening.

Creating an environment that supports user-generated content relies on all of these approaches and more — and, with the right learning tools, the process is easy, quick and cost-effective.

A good example is the subject matter expert (SME) who records a quick how-to video on his or her computer or mobile device. Uploading the video to a central library enables anyone at the organization — or a select group of learners, such as the expert’s peers and juniors — to see, access, search for and comment on it.

If you consider how much time and effort it would take to arrange one-to-one time with an SME every time an employee needs guidance, you can see how useful and efficient this kind of user-generated content is.

Creating User-generated Content Means Letting Go … a Little

While mainstream social media sites can be a stage for anyone to share anything, learning technologies in the workplace provide a more reliable stream of high-quality knowledge-sharing. They offer learning teams the opportunity to quality-check content before publishing and to set roles and permissions by user, by content asset and by collection.

Offering learners a role in the training process inevitably involves some uncertainty and risk, but it also gives the new “consumer learners” what they want. Employees increasingly expect to take control of their own learning, especially millennial learners, who are expected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.

It’s impossible to predict how much quality content learners will produce and what engagement levels this approach will result in, but the early signs are full of promise. Companies such as Google, which was a major early adopter of user-generated content, have made this style of employee-to-employee learning a mainstay of their training programs.

User-generated Content Encourages Mastery

This discussion leads to an important point about skill and knowledge development: Mastery usually relies on being able to repeatedly review or practice. A library of user-generated content is a resource learners can turn to at any time, in their moment of need, to revisit what they learned.

About half of U.S. employees were hoping to leave their job in 2017, with the number of Americans leaving their jobs voluntarily at a 17-year high. When people leave a company, their legacy of user-generated content ensures their knowledge does not depart with them. Sharing and capturing employee knowledge is an obvious wise move for any company, and today’s high workforce turnover makes it more critical than ever.

Organically Reinforcing a Culture of Continuous Learning

At a time when many managers prize a culture of learning, creating user-generated content is a great way to meet learners where they are and encourage active knowledge-sharing. However, there’s still a long way to go, with 85% of employees described as unengaged or actively disengaged at work. Whether you’re about to launch a concerted social learning strategy or are looking to increase your level of quality content, this is one learning approach that paves the way to success.