This is a blog about social media in the workplace. This is also a blog about training for employees.
This is NOT a blog about training employees to use social media (at least not put so simply).
When I began tossing around names for this blog, I first spent some time on Learn 2 Social. It then evolved into Learn 2B Social. Clever? Hardly. Cute? Probably too cute. But I digress.
Clever or not, it occurred to me that these names are not in line with the argument that I want to make and the discussion that I hope to have with you here. These names would imply that training is the solution for social media competency and adoption in the workplace. I believe there is a connection between social media and training that can make both practices more successful in the workplace, but the path is not linear and it’s certainly not a one-way street.
Most large companies use training to teach technical job skills. These are generally skills where proficiency is necessary for adequate job performance, and mastery could mean great success for an employee. Most trainable job skills have direct triggers for learner motivation. If an employee takes their skill development seriously, it could mean future increases in compensation, seniority, and recognition. However, take away the need, the practical use for a technical skill, and the rewards for performing it well, and you will lose learner motivation. Most people don’t voluntarily choose to learn or use technical skills that they don’t need.
Do employees need to use social media in the workplace? I believe most would answer ‘no.’ Some may say that they NEED to check their personal Facebook account during the work day, because they can’t get through eight hours without the latest status updates. However, I’m referring to the need for social media to actually do their work or to be recognized for doing it better. For most employees, there isn’t a consequence for social media absence in the workplace, and its absence doesn’t limit their ability to be more successful. However, even if there isn’t a need, there still may be unrealized opportunities for both companies and employees. We may not always think about it, but we experience these benefits in our personal use of social media.
Social media for personal use is about sharing thoughts, ideas, humor, videos, and photos, (sometimes photos of what you’re about to eat) with your friends or followers. The effect is an instant and sometimes continual transfer of information from one to many. Secondary effects include the creation of new connections, uncovering mutual interests or common ground, and strengthening existing relationships. Surely it’s not difficult to link these effects to employee benefits and workplace opportunities.
Social media in the workplace can create these benefits and opportunities, but it still lacks a serious business need for most employees. Training without need is an ineffective way of introducing new tools and processes, and is certainly not a method for creating a cultural transformation within a company. For training to be effective, employees must experience a need to learn something that helps them complete tasks or solve real-life problems. If the workplace currently lacks the need for social media, how do we create the need in order to take advantage of opportunity?
Most training that is needed for minimum job performance or standard development is assigned. A manager tells their employee what is required. A trainer tells the employee what they need to do in order to meet the requirement. Through the flexibility of training design, trainers have an arsenal of methodologies available. Social media is now seen as a learning methodology. I attended an ASTD Blended Learning Certificate Program last month where they referred to web-based collaboration, or for buzz-word enthusiasts: web 2.0. This is defined as ‘the use of Internet technology and web design to enhance information sharing and collaboration among course participants.’ Basically, we’re teaching each other through web-based information exchange in online communities (or online campuses).
Herein, we can create a new need for social media in the workplace. Employees need to complete basic job training. Social media can be a required component of training that increases learner engagement. To successfully complete this component of training, employees will need basic social media technical and communication skills. Consequently, social media training becomes a required prerequisite to job training. In this way, training can be a touch point where every new employee both learns and experiences social media at the start of their career with a company (and hopefully throughout). Looking broader, this could be one catalyst for social media cultural transformation within a company.
This is a blog about applying social media to training and how both practices can be more successful in the workplace through this connection.