At work, there always seems to be something new that is being introduced. New technology. New processes. New best practices. New job descriptions. New organizational behaviors. With all of these changes happening at such a dizzying pace, employees are increasingly worried about losing their jobs – not due to layoffs, but irrelevance and obsolescence. Meanwhile, companies are concerned that their existing workforce may not have the skills needed to compete and win.
According to “Workforce 2020” research from Oxford Economics, sponsored by SAP, 41% of surveyed companies offer opportunities for employee development. Although 52% of executives worldwide believe skill gaps impact business performance, fewer than 40% provide established learning programs such as job rotation and shadowing. If this gap further widens and learning opportunities stall, less than half of the workforce will be proficient in using key technologies needed to keep pace and stay ahead of the competition over the next three years.
This would be quite unfortunate. People are only able to do what they know, experience, and use. If training, education, and support continue to fall by the wayside, employees will instinctively make excuses for abandoning any kind of change – even if it is highly advantageous to themselves and the overall business.
In an era where business simplification, increased productivity, and customer satisfaction are critical success factors, no company can afford a workforce that is not flexible and swift to change. Is there one solution that can solve both ends of the equation? Welcome to social learning.
Social learning: revolutionizing how we learn
Companies that foster a learning culture tend to outperform the competition significantly. A recent SAP Insider article cites a Bersin by Deloitte study that revealed organizations with a strong learning culture are 46% more likely to be first to market, 37% more productive, and are 58% more prepared to meet future demand. More important, these companies are 17% more likely to become market leaders.
To develop the technology skills their employees need, companies must focus more on supplying the right technology and training. If leaders step back and observe how the workforce uses technology, they will soon realize that people generally enjoy exchanging experiences, knowledge, and ideas with their peers through social media anytime and anywhere.
How does this now innate behavior relate to corporate learning? In every aspect.
Here are three reasons why social learning makes sense in today’s world:
1. We live in a more collaborative, social world.
Not only are we learning new things, we are learning from each other. Simply put, learning content lies in each of us. Through collaborative social learning technology, employees can take advantage of that truth and interactively participate in the learning experience – as students, teachers, and peers. Doing so enables the entire workforce to develop knowledge in key innovation areas and best practices while keeping their skills fresh all year long.
When new knowledge is put into practice immediately, the entire workforce is empowered to deliver the expected changes needed to improve operations and better service customers. By engaging in a social learning community, public or private, employees can communicate how they are applying this newly acquired knowledge while encouraging each other and serving as a support system for self-reinforcement.
2. Rapid adoption of technology is the business imperative.
Every company wants to streamline business processes, boost productivity and user satisfaction, reduce costs, and drive a faster return on technology investments. But first, the workforce must be educated on how to use the technology that enables these results. How do we fit in user training when our plates are already full?
Today’s users learn best when training is relevant to their roles, available when they need it, and collaborative. With social learning, relevant, high-quality training is delivered and made available when the user needs it. Access to in-application guidance and a portal that offers additional information provides an opportunity to learn while working in the new technology.
3. Social learning makes creating educational content easier
and using it more productive.
Social learning gives leaders an opportunity to enhance the capability of the workforce to respond to the demands on the business – today and tomorrow. With greater ease, flexibility, and speed, subject-matter experts can create, manage, assign, and report on their role-specific learning content – from simulations and videos to job-specific training scenarios and self-study courses. Plus, they can share their content across a variety of devices and in multiple languages.
This capability is especially important when you consider the transition many baby boomers are making towards retirement and the large knowledge base that could potentially leave with them. On the flip side, Gen Xers and Millennials depend on that information to further their own careers, as well as their organizations’ agendas. Social learning technology empowers boomers to offer their personal experiences and lessons learned to a wider community. Meanwhile, younger generations acquire a forum to ask questions and access the information anytime, anywhere, and quickly.
With social learning, content can be easily created, stored, rated, and commented while collaboration and communication are improved. As a result, productivity increases across the value chain as much as 35% according to McKinsey.
With training professionals in short supply, companies are beginning to see the value of social technology in delivering relevant, real-time, on-the-job, and ongoing learning opportunities. Is it time that your company does too?