Recent reports by LinkedIn and Towards Maturity show that learning and development (L&D) teams continue to face low budgets and shrinking teams. Today’s L&D departments are often swamped by the influx of training requests from all areas of their companies. An employee-generated learning (EGL) model helps L&D teams effectively manage these challenges.

To determine whether EGL is the right solution for your company, start by looking at the three types of learning content L&D conventionally deals with.

  1. High-stakes learning (L&D-owned): mandatory training on critical topics like compliance or security
  2. Medium-stakes learning (L&D-initiated): technical training (for example, on products or internal procedures)
  3. Low-stakes learning (SME-owned): sharing tacit knowledge, such as best practices and know-how, often in a social learning environment

Medium- and low-stakes learning content both have a positive impact on costs and require fewer resources from the L&D team. An employee-generated learning model effectively facilitates this process.

EGL is rooted in social learning and enables employees to record and share their tacit knowledge in a continuous cycle that accumulates into a knowledge pool. Such pools of information are essential in enabling workers to keep pace of rapidly changing business demands. EGL is a self-serving model suitable for nearly any technical or tactical job.

For example, in a global data measurement firm with multiple divisions and diverse training needs, the central L&D team must prioritize strategic training projects, preventing it from devoting adequate time to smaller requests. The ratio of L&D resources to training requests was unmanageable, which prompted the L&D team to consider a home-grown, employee-generated solution.

The L&D team decided to leverage EGL by offering individual departments the opportunity to create their own learning solutions and play an active role in sharing knowledge. L&D provided teams with easy-to-use authoring tools and created an internal site with general guidelines for creating effective training material. Today, over 500 employees in the company are creating learning content through an effective system of peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing. Instead of struggling to meet demands or saying, “Sorry, that’s outside the scope of what we can do,” the central L&D team now offers a well-supported solution to stakeholders with smaller requests while maintaining its own focus on global, strategic initiatives.

EGL Success Factors: The 3 Cs

Culture (Mindset, Fears), Conditions (IT, Framework), Content (Didactical Support)

The three Cs are the fundamental elements for successfully implementing any EGL model.

Culture: Changing Mindsets

A recent survey we conducted reveals that staging a learning intervention requires L&D to change mindsets and convince three key stakeholders within an organization’s culture: business leaders, employees, and fellow L&D team members. The real challenge is addressing preconceived notions about traditional learning approaches and expectations of L&D. How can L&D change these stakeholders’ mindsets when rolling out EGL?

  • Business leaders: Communicate the benefits of EGL, and constantly involve them as co-champions in the change initiative. Since the shared information comes from proven practices, its relevance and applicability are virtually guaranteed. Assure them that EGL aligns content with performance, which directly impacts business results.
  • Employees: Treat employees not as learners but as co-creators of learning content. Since employees will create and maintain the content, L&D must strongly encourage them to take ownership of the process. Reward them for their initiative.
  • L&D team members: Assure L&D colleagues of their evolving role, from content creators to coaches. Encourage them to be more strategic and facilitate fluidity in this new model.

Conditions: Laying the Groundwork

The best way to facilitate EGL is to select tools or platforms with no IT hassles and little to no learning curve. SMEs have their own jobs to do, so they do not have time to learn to use complicated tools to create content and share knowledge. You should make it as natural and easy as possible for SMEs to share their knowledge. Also, remember to implement easy, one-step measures for capturing feedback from learners to evaluate and continually improve the content.

Content: Setting the Guidelines

One of the most common objections to EGL is that SMEs lack conventional training skills. Therefore, it is crucial for L&D to play an active role in leveraging SMEs’ knowledge by helping them create pedagogically sound content. Start by setting a couple guidelines.

L&D should help identify “sweet spots” where SMEs can step in and handle learning demands for themselves. Common areas include error-resolution procedures, client conversation tricks and implementation processes. Look for instances where SMEs can share quick bits of knowledge without having to create full-fledged courses. Help SMEs focus on sharing just the essentials of their experience. Encourage them to keep it minimal and express their tacit knowledge using plain language that works for them.

In the EGL model, L&D’s role is to direct the creation process and harness SMEs’ know-how in a minimum viable setup that makes it easy to share knowledge and make an impact on the organization.