A Paradigm Shift

Last October, Jane Hart unveiled her “Top Tools for Learning” for 2018. The results confirmed that more employees are now self-learning and self-serving their training needs than ever before. Today’s employees find their own online resources and courses whenever they need to solve a problem. These resources are not created by L&D but by peers and professionals working in the same field.

There are still some exceptions, like company-specific or confidential information that cannot be found online, but Hart’s list is proof of the paradigm shift taking place today, as L&D continues to move away from the classroom approach, with its classic training resources of slide decks and activity sheets. Those materials were typically hand-crafted by L&D. Today, however, content is increasingly likely to be employee-generated or -curated. The user-generated approach to learning is a silent yet fast-paced and organic revolution that is disrupting conventional, top-down learning approaches. Fundamentally, this approach means giving subject matter experts (SMEs) the power to create and maintain learning content on topics in which they are experts. It harnesses their expertise and enables them to share it with colleagues. This approach is called employee-generated learning (EGL).

To keep pace with the speed at which enterprises must adapt to these changes, L&D faces multiple challenges, including producing more content, more quickly than ever, with increasingly limited resources and smaller L&D teams serving huge organizations. The traditional process of creating courses with SME input and reviews is inefficient, considering how quickly content changes. Despite input from SMEs, it can become impossible for content maintenance to keep up with the speed of business. Even when working with third-party vendors, L&D still faces the long, expensive process of teaching them about products and internal procedures.

The solution is EGL. It’s faster, easier and, in many cases, far more cost-effective. With EGL, individual departments create their own learning content and play an active role in sharing knowledge. As a result, many regional requests can be fulfilled within the teams, unburdening the central L&D team. Empowering employees to create their own training content significantly speeds up the process. To be successful with this approach, the process must be easy to use, while supporting SMEs with in creating effective content. L&D must serve as a strategic consultant, activating a network of SMEs and supporting them to create effective content. Below are L&D’s key stakeholders and their concerns regarding EGL.

Business Leaders: Costs and Culture

Concern: “We can make better use of employees’ time instead of getting them to crowdsource content. Will the culture accept this bottom-up approach?”

People tend to accept change when it makes sense and they can see the positive benefit for themselves. L&D must demonstrate those benefits to business leaders and to SMEs. For example, according to research by Robyn Defelice and Karl Kapp, it takes between 42 and 143 hours to create an online course. Similarly, a Chapman Alliance study found that one hour of e-learning material costs between $10,054 and $50,371 to produce. L&D can save a lot of time and money by encouraging SMEs to contribute and share knowledge instead of following the traditional end-to-end cycle of content creation.

L&D: Impact

Concern: “How can you expect to teach SMEs to be instructional designers when they lack formal education in this area?”

In an EGL system, SMEs don’t have time for training in pedagogy. They have their own jobs to do, and EGL provides a streamlined approach to capturing their expertise. The authoring software must be simple to use, so SMEs can begin creating content right away.

Employees: Time

Concern: “I don’t have a lot of time; how long does it take to create an e-learning module?”

It is vital for L&D to make clear to SMEs that full-length online courses are not always the answer to learning needs. A simple piece of informal information or a brief resource might work just as well. EGL dovetails with the SME’s normal working behavior of self-solving on-the-job challenges, without expecting SMEs to become pedagogical experts. This approach assures the busy SMEs of the little time it takes to share their knowledge.

Five Steps to Launching Employee-generated Learning

If you’re interested in designing a successful EGL program for your organization, here are five steps to follow:

5 steps to user-generated learning