3 Reasons Training Departments Should Use their Social Network Tools

June 13, 2011

In a recent cafe chat with a few training/design peers, someone mentioned how their organization’s learning unit purchased a social network suite, but that it largely went unused a year after implementation.  While this puzzled her and me, others in the group protested that no one has time  to blog or other social network “stuff.” Really? I think that’s a crock. Intuitively and experimentally, I know how powerful social networking can be for learning (both personal and team/organizational). But how do I argue that to others who aren’t convinced?

Here are my top three thoughts on why we should be using social networking within our learning organizations. What others are there?

Reason 1: We need to enhance our ability to connect and network within the Learning function.

Our Jive-empowered network brings a variety of social media and networking technologies to the enterprise level, giving us an opportunity to harness the power of blogging, threaded discussions, virtual groups and more—all within the safe confinements of the firewall. With these tools, we can connect, collaborate, and share with one another in ways not possible with meetings and coffee chats.

The discussion tools give us an excellent way to share a thought or question, and get responses from people not just in your office, but in offices around the country/world.

“Groups” and other features provide an easily accessible, relatively easy way to create online communities of practice.   Members can post questions around fuzzy concepts, share links and documents, collaborate on a project, or share best practices.

Reason 2: We need a better way to distribute and access our wealth of knowledge.

In Company X we have a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is tribal knowledge around how we get things done, as well as role-specific know-how and a wide array of special interests. Typically, we share this kind of information in day-to-day conversations, emails, or via documents stored on Sharepoint or some server located who-knows-where. This knowledge is difficult or impossible to access.

The Learning Network offers a number of significant benefits for knowledge sharing over those traditional methods. Here’s a few:

  • Knowledge sharing on the network is not constrained by time and place. Someone in Japan can just as easily participate in a conversation as someone here at the SSC.
  • Knowledge housed on the network is searchable. Categorized topics and the thoughtful use of tags in blogs and articles makes content searchable and retrievable for future reference. You can’t exactly search last year’s water cooler conversations, can you?
  • Full participation is enabled. Anyone can create and share their own content just as easily as they can respond to others’ contributions. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled meeting  or a facilitator, leader, or domain expert to start a conversation. Have something to say or a question to ask? Want to share a great idea from an external Web site or favorite blog? Just log on and start writing!

Reason 3: We need to leverage and enhance our opportunities for informal learning.

Social media and networking tools also allows us to leverage and enhance informal learning. Most workplace learning doesn’t happen through formally prescribed courses, coaching, or learning paths. Rather, most learning happens through informal conversations that occur on the job, in the break room, between meetings, and so on.  This can be sharing a quick “how to,” or a vetting out of new concepts, ideas, and challenges. With the Learning Network, we can bring some of these conversations online, giving us more avenues to learn and share.

So, that’s what I think. What say you? Are there other good reasons for training and development departments to use their own social tools more? Or why not to?