You’re a business owner or HR professional who wants to encourage your employees to learn from one another. You have an idea of the available tools – Twitter, WordPress, Diigo – but you’re not quite sure which you should use. You’re stuck on the big question:
Which social enterprise learning technology is the best fit?
Before you do anything else, you need to identify exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your social learning technology. Coming up with a definitive answer to this question will dictate what types of social learning technologies to explore. Social learning includes a wide variety of platforms and technologies. If you start exploring these without a plan, the chances of wasting time researching irrelevant (but totally amazing!) apps and websites skyrocket. Therefore, to fortify yourself against potential time-wasters, there are several questions you should answer in advance:
Do you want to facilitate conversation between employees generally, or you want to initiate the conversation with a specific topic?
Do you want employees to focus on sharing online materials they find, or on discussing their own experiences and insights?
Do you want your employees to engage in your social learning platform for a few minutes a day, or do you want to make it a more intensive initiative?
Once you’ve determined what it is you’d like to accomplish with your social learning initiative, you should consider your users. What type of technologies are your employees used to using? Avoid wasting time and money setting up social learning initiative internally by carefully selecting a technology that is appropriate for your users. Be sure your choice of technology is in harmony with the users it is intended to help connect. For example, if your team is highly mobile and rarely in the office, make sure the tool you select has an excellent mobile app. If your team will be sharing lots of links to external resources, perhaps a social bookmarking tool is an essential feature for your platform.
By this point, you’ve probably settled on a cluster of social learning sites. Maybe you’re looking specifically at mind mapping tools to help employees collaborate, or perhaps instead you’ve identified a company blog as the best way to lead employees to engage in dialogue around a specific topic.
Whatever it is you have selected, there are guaranteed to be a number of available tools—some free and some paid. In some spheres of social learning, the custom options or power of paid tools makes them superior to their counterparts… but not always. It can be difficult to determine the value of these relative sites. A good rule of thumb when deciding whether to pay for a service or not is to ask yourself – Will purchasing this service or paying a regular fee for this service be surpassed by the value it will provide for my company? If the premium content aggregator account you spend $150 a month on provides your sales team with insights that bring in thousands of dollars in new business, was the purchase worth it? Of course! But if you paid $1500 for to install a fancy message board that will play host to more tumbleweeds and cobwebs than lively discussion, don’t waste your money.
Has your enterprise successfully implemented a social learning technology? What are your tips for selecting social learning tools? Let us know in the comments.