According to the 70-20-10 model, 10% of workplace learning comes from formal training, 20% comes from social learning and 70% comes from on-the-job experiences. How can we actualize the “20” part of this model?
The key lies in capturing employees’ knowledge and enabling them to share it with their peers in employee-generated learning (EGL). This approach helps anyone who is an expert in a particular subject share his or her knowledge in the form of courses or resources.
The EGL Model
With the EGL approach, employees share their knowledge and build their own learning and support resources in synchronous (e.g., social media posts, group chats and webinars) or asynchronous (e.g., short eLearning courses, recorded videos and performance support resources) formats. Most of what you’ll need in order to implement EGL is likely already available to you; you just need a tool that is easy to use.
One use case for a quick win is working with a sales team to set up employee-generated learning for a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform. You could provide an easy-to-use authoring tool to your sales team to create simple performance support resources like how-to guides, checklists and micro-courses, along with internal social media posts about sales successes and challenges.
Practical Tips to Implement EGL
Start Small, and Build Over Time
Content is a key driver of social learning. Identify the gaps where, if you fill them, you can make the most impact. (Use the 80:20 rule: What 20% of EGL input will provide 80% of its output?) Start by introducing the technologies you need to fill those gaps — for example, an employee-generated eLearning authoring tool. Once you have this platform up and running successfully, you can decide which gap to fill next.
Make It Easy
Knowledge needs to be easy to capture and share. Outside of work, people are used to creating and sharing content easily and quickly, often in a matter of seconds. Aspire to make everything you offer as straightforward as possible. One strategy is to provide templates that employees can use to create as little as possible from scratch. Forgo fancy extras in favor of simplicity and speed, and make the end-to-end workflow as straightforward as possible.
Social learning is all about helping employees learn from one another — not asking them to become training experts. Here’s an analogy: We can all post a video on YouTube that can be useful for the right audience. We don’t need to be trained actors to do so. Similarly, social learning is about sharing what you know, not creating a Hollywood blockbuster.
Develop a Stakeholder Engagement Plan
For any initiative to be successful, it is essential to engage the relevant stakeholders. Your stakeholders will provide valuable information regarding employees’ learning needs, and their support and advocacy will be critical to the long-term success of your EGL initiative.
When building your stakeholder engagement plan, start by thinking of the key audiences you will need to convince along the way. Typically, when it comes to employee-generated learning, there are three main groups of stakeholders:
- Approvers: the leaders who hold budgets and make decisions (e.g., the chief human resources officer and the head of learning and development).
- Conduits: the enablers and vehicles to the end user (e.g., senior business leaders and the HR community).
- End users: the employees creating and using EGL.
Next, think about the information these three groups of stakeholders will require to support the EGL initiative. A model for personal change that you can use for this process is “head, heart and habit”:
- Head (the thinking piece): Consider the information each group of stakeholders will require, such as the speed and agility of EGL, the autonomy it provides employees, or its low cost.
- Heart (the emotional piece): Consider the stakeholders’ “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM), such as that the fact that employees will be sharing their knowledge and building a culture of learning.
- Habits (the “doing” piece): Consider what stakeholders need in order to be able to implement EGL on a day-to-day basis, such as the ability to use the tool and guidelines for which types of learning will be employee generated.
Define the Role of L&D
It is also important to define the role the learning and development (L&D) team will take. Often, the L&D professionals are the scaffold builders, enablers and curators who lay the groundwork for EGL and facilitate the process.
To measure the impact of social learning and EGL in particular, use a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Look at what the platform or platforms you’re using can measure, such as the number of eLearning modules completed, the number of users and the number of social media posts shared.
You can also survey employees to ask for their feedback. Identify the top 10% and bottom 10% of responses from the survey, and follow up with an exploratory conversation. The information from the top 10% will help you identify the enablers of success, and the bottom 10% will help you understand the barriers. The success stories are also great to use alongside the metrics when reporting back to the organization, as they help to bring the data to life.
Another simple measure is to employ a net promoter score (NPS) for every piece of content employees create. This metric will give you and your learners instant feedback on the quality and usefulness of the content.
When rolling out your EGL initiative, let employees know it’s about sharing knowledge with peers, not about creating the perfect course or resource. This message will lower the threshold and make EGL more appealing, eventually building up a knowledge pool that is up to date and easy to maintain. Then, you can help employees to drive knowledge-sharing in an effective way.