How organisations can bring the best of social media into workplace learning

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Imagine a workplace where learning feels as rewarding as your most positive social media interactions. Andrea Sennett explores leveraging digital dynamics for higher engagement and professional growth

How much time does the average person spend scrolling and interacting with others on social media? Research has found that UK users spend three hours and 41 minutes online every day, with 77% agreeing that being online helps them stay in contact with friends and family.  

If companies implemented functions such as likes, comments and shares, they could further drive workforce collaboration 

It’s clear that the sense of community that social media offers can bring benefits, but it can also become addictive. Studies have found that the brain releases dopamine as a “reward” for using social media and receiving positive feedback, which encourages people to spend more time scrolling, often mindlessly.  

But what if this dopamine hit could be recreated from an activity that adds educational value to an individual’s life, such as workplace learning? Moreover, what impact could this have on skills development? 

Bringing ‘likes’ into learning  

Workplace learning has, traditionally, been done through a one-way system – for instance, a learning management system (LMS) teaches an employee what they need to know. This approach is extremely effective; the platform acts as a central point for all learning needs, ensures completion of any mandatory training, and can be scaled across a business to ensure every employee can refine their skillset.  

To further boost the positive impact an LMS can have on skills development, organisations can introduce social functions to promote collaboration and enable a two-way connection.  

In fact, collaboration with peers is already proving a popular method of learning, with 36% of organisations facilitating this. As such, if companies implemented functions such as likes, comments and shares, they could further drive workforce collaboration.  

This could include employees commenting on colleagues’ posts to congratulate them when they’ve completed training modules, or sharing achievements as they develop their skills and grow in their careers. Employees could also follow each other to keep up to date with their colleagues’ successes, or share posts discussing their knowledge and experiences.  

If organisations were able to replicate the social media experience, they could in tandem encourage the brain to release a hit of dopamine as a “reward”. This can make learning feel addictive while simultaneously having a positive impact on employees’ professional and personal development, with skills being a crucial component of this.  

Social functions also give employees the opportunity to contribute to the organisation, champion their peers, and play a positive role in something that is bigger than just themselves.  

Turning content consumers into content creators 

Aside from the typical social functions, fostering collaboration and connection in learning can also be achieved through content creation. With research finding that 65% of employees are seeking out additional learning content, providing content creation tools can empower people to share their wisdom with their network, and personalise content to their preferences or skills goals.  

For example, employees can leverage any digital material, such as an article or a video, and turn it into learning content. Or, if they want to produce some quick-fire content, they can create polls and quizzes.  

To take the social element a step further, organisations can position learning as a game. So, if employees complete each other’s learning modules, for instance, they could earn virtual rewards and show these off to their network. 

While content creation can clearly help learners, it also has an equally positive impact on creators, as teaching others can help them reinforce their own learning – commonly referred to as the “protégé effect”.   

But giving people the opportunity to share their own content and engage with content others have created doesn’t just encourage collaboration. It also allows people to get creative and learn about any topic they desire; gone are the days when a person had to ask for a specific learning module and wait for it to be delivered. With the right tools on hand, employees can take ownership over, and accelerate, their skills development – and the positive impact this can have on a company is undeniable. 

Bringing online connections into the workplace 

Leveraging social media functions in learning can help to foster widespread connection, and make learning a fundamentally more collaborative, enjoyable, and engaging experience. This will continue to evolve over time, particularly in light of the growing prevalence of immersive technologies, such as extended reality (XR) simulations and the metaverse.  

On 13 May 2024, for instance, Wales become the first European nation to enter the metaverse and showcase its tourist hotspots in a virtual world. It’s clear this is where the future of social media, and online life in general, is heading; as such, learning can also move in this direction, and organisations can use XR and the metaverse to learn and grow together in virtual worlds.  

Fostering connection through immersive technologies can help to rewire a company’s internal culture, cultivate a broader organisational skillset, and ultimately extend the value of learning. For example, employees could have the opportunity to connect with colleagues who work in other areas of the business, and who they wouldn’t normally interact with.  

So, by using immersive technologies to expand their network, employees can help cultivate a happier, more supportive work environment with stronger internal relationships. This then leads to better employee satisfaction and a sense of belonging.  

As organisations look to the future, it’s clear that leveraging learning technologies and social media frameworks can create a more connected, supportive and dynamic workplace. Employees gain the freedom to become both content consumers and creators, which empowers them to take control of their personal and professional development while contributing to the organisation’s overall success. 

Andrea Sennett is Head of Content Partnerships at Cornerstone 

Andrea Sennett

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