I recently had the chance to read the first chapter of one of Jane Bozarth’s books, Social Media for Trainers. I found it to be a great primer on today’s most popular social media tools. The first chapter contains a section called “Why Social Media in Training?” In this section, Bozarth contends that social media tools break things down in such a simple way that they actually empower users. They help people collaborate in whatever way they prefer, asynchronously or in real-time, across borders and without very much hassle.
Sure, those are general benefits—but how does social media specifically help with training? Let’s take a practical scenario: the workshop. In the old days, the interaction between the facilitator and the participants would be limited to the hours of the workshop schedule. With social media, these limitations don’t exist; the facilitators can potentially always be available to discuss and address questions or concerns. To quote Bozarth, “social media tools can help the trainer meet learners where they are” (13).
Bozarth also highlights the importance of informal learning, which comprises as much as 70% of all workplace learning. This is the kind of learning that happens through casual conversations in the hallway. She calls it the “Hey, Joe!” phenomenon, and uses examples like:
- “Hey, Joe! How do I reformat these tables again?”
- “Hey, Joe! What did you say was the trick to getting these contracts through so quickly?”
These are things that don’t have to be learned in workshops or during compliance training (formal learning). They can be picked up through YouTube tutorial videos, as well as good old-fashioned trial and error, opportunities which she says typically happen “in the spaces between formal training events” (15). These gaps are important because they represent areas for possible social media injection. If a strategy can be implemented to deliver helpful tips and tricks to other colleagues via social media, IM, or some other collaborative technology (whether public or in-house), then informal learning will be consistently maintained in a way that employees will find convenient and helpful to them.