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Social Media in Learning and Talent Development


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The article gives some best practices on how social media can be used for learning & talent development

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Social Media in Learning and Talent Development

  1. 1. Managers as Talent ManagersText originally appeared in Schwuchow, K./Gutmann, J. (ed.): Personalentwicklung 2013 -Themen, Trends, Best Practices, Freiburg, Haufe-Lexware 2012Social Media in Learning and Talent DevelopmentThomas Jenewein, SAP Education, SAP AG, Walldorf, GermanySocial media are increasingly becoming part of everyday working life. Initial experiencehas underlined the importance of integrating social media into IT infrastructures andbusiness processes to ensure they become an integral part of the working day. If usedproperly, social media can help companies run more effectively, including in the area oflearning & talent development (L&D) and associated areas such as knowledgemanagement and change management. If done right social media can help to optimizeknowledge work tremendously. L&D managers can assume key driving roles here: byusing social media in typical personnel development processes, as experts in facilitation,instructional design, or change management, and in their roles as educational experts.IntroductionSocial media employ web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogueand “introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication betweenorganizations, communities, and individuals.” (Wikipedia, 2012). They involve information,communication, collaboration, knowledge management, multimedia, and entertainment.As new technologies continue to emerge, the area is constantly developing – be it the useof location recognition/GPS, “Big Data”, and of new devices such as tablets, or theintroduction of new combinations, such as new business models.Since the triumph of the smartphone, there is no longer any question about sustainabilityof social media in the future. “Generation Y” will promote the use of social media in theworkplace – and social media will have to be used to recruit and retain particularlytalented employees in the face of the increasing shortage of qualified personnel.These technical innovations will also support more effective learning, knowledge transfer,and talent management. L&D managers need to consider: How they can best use these new media in their areas How this can change their role as personnel development managerIntegrating social media into existing processes has proven to be more effective thansimply making the technology available to employees.
  2. 2. Social Media in Learning and Talent DevelopmentPotential Uses of Social MediaUsing social media changes general communication values. New values include freedomfrom hierarchy (anyone can contact anyone else) and transparency (all information isaccessible within ones own network at least). Career values have also changed.Motivation at work stems more and more from quality of work, lifestyle, developmentopportunities, and employer branding. The values associated with social media, and thenew career values in which social media also represent a lifestyle tool, must be taken intoaccount when social media are used.Social media such as Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn have been used as job searchengines in the area of recruiting for quite some time. How social media can be used inlearning and talent development is now also being considered. Let us now look at somepossible scenarios.On-Demand Learning and Knowledge ManagementContent and experience in wikis, for example, can help optimize knowledge managementand accelerate informal learning. Implicit knowledge is made explicit thanks to comments,ratings, user contributions, and discussions – and the highly valued user-generatedcontent that emerges becomes organizational knowledge. Some applications providefeatures for adding and sharing videos or screenshots directly from social mediaplatforms. This further transforms users into content and media producers. What resultsis a searchable knowledge base that could never be created with the same scope, up-to-date information, speed, cost-effectiveness, and quality by central departments.Learning and obtaining information quickly as part of the job, for example, to solve aspecific problem, are integral daily tasks in knowledge-intensive jobs. Not everything canbe learned in advance nowadays. Wikipedia is a particularly useful and popular problem-solving tool used by many. Such scenarios can also be implemented internally withincompanies – thereby ensuring data privacy and legal protection. This allows employees touse social networks to find experts who can help them further, for example. Or they canfind solutions in user-generated content, such as that available in discussion forums orcompany wikis.Social media should ideally be integrated directly into work processes. Forums or wikipages could be incorporated into product documentation, for example, enabling users tohelp themselves with support from facilitating experts. Another example would be aforum for every sales order created in which questions or documents could be exchangedas part of customer support. If on-demand learning is made an integral part of theworking environment and existing processes, it is no longer learning – but part of the job.An example from personnel development would be social media features integrated intothe learning infrastructure, such as course ratings and comments. This allows learners to
  3. 3. Managers as Talent Managersobtain valuable information when selecting courses and share their views with otherlearners based on the comments. Ideally, learners would be able to search for formalcontent (such as training courses and e-learnings) and use the same search function tofind user-generated content (informal content such as wiki contributions and videos).Communities of Practice (CoP)Communities of practice (CoP) is an established method that has been boosted throughthe use of social media. According to Wenger (1998), these are communities of expertsthat are interconnected informally and that face similar tasks. Social media platforms canprovide the “adhesive glue” within these communities. If an established expert group hasreached a certain size and is adequately distributed, the CoP can also functionindependently via social media without considerable integration effort, assuming it isfacilitated and managed appropriately. Its success hinges on the commitment andmanagement of the group, however.In the area of personnel development, a community for talents or high potentials couldbe a useful application – although integration into a process, namely the talentmanagement process, would also be beneficial in this case. SAP AG, for example, has setup a talent community for its global talents through which all communication is made –from providing information about new development activities and programs, tosubsequent questions and comments from talents. The community is facilitated by thetalent program managers.Another potential use is in the onboarding of new employees: New employees can sharetheir initial experiences and network with others. In addition, formal content such aschecklists help to shorten time to full productivity.Another example – open innovation – is evident in the U.S. company UST Global. This ITconsulting firm uses a social media tool for asynchronous colloquia for idea generation(jam sessions), in which new products are discussed. The company also sets upcommunities for each customer project, thereby optimizing internal communication forproject business.Blended Learning 2.0Social media provide tools that are easy to use and can be integrated into existinglearning settings, allowing blended learning to be combined with social learning andtaken to the next level. Social learning can be defined as learning from and with othersusing social media. It can take the form of independent learning, on-demand learning, orinformal and collaborative learning. It can involve: Supporting discussions Submitting questions and answers
  4. 4. Social Media in Learning and Talent Development Working through exercises Sharing documents before, during, or after coursesAgain, it is important in this case for integration to take place at a methodological anddesign level. If forums are merely set up for a course, there is no guarantee they willactually be used.An SAP example of such an application is the Strategy to Action program in whichparticipants use a social media platform to discuss homework between seminars, accesscourse material, and share their experiences. Integrating the social media platform in theinstructional design was a key move. Specifically why and how the platform is to be usedwas explained during the course, for example.Yet another example is a training program set up by a midsize German bank, in whichworking and learning tasks for trainees proved to be particularly successful in the salescommunity (Hassebrook, Maurer, 2011). As part of the trainee program, working andlearning tasks were announced on the social network, where documents were madeavailable and subsequently processed by learning groups. Trainees were notified aboutproject changes or updates automatically, could set up personal profiles, see whichparticipants were active at any given time, and create their own groups or activities. Suchwas the success and enthusiasm of the participants for this new form of learning thatmanagement decided to make these learning communities the basis for trainee programsacross the entire bank group.Communication & InformationCommunication can be made more effective through the use of social media. Socialmedia conveniently replace newsletters, central mail inboxes for specific areas or projects,and help optimize communication including feedback and discussion options, forexample. This can serve not only to simplify tasks within personnel development (byhaving blogs for each project), but also to improve the communication of information tointernal customers (by means of podcasts or a social networking group for personneldevelopment).
  5. 5. Managers as Talent ManagersTeam and Change ManagementThe key to successful change processes is to ensure that employees are informedsufficiently, trained, and involved in shaping the change. Social media are valuable tools ineach of these three areas of action (Ploski, Ulrich, Ehmann, 2011). Furthermore, theintroduction of social media should be accompanied by a change process since thetransported values are not always in alignment with corporate values. In companies withstrict hierarchies in particular, social media must be used purposefully and managedcarefully to ensure employees feel encouraged to use them.Social media offer an array of potential uses from which team development can alsobenefit. The objective of the “SAP Marketing Film Festival” was to optimizecommunication between departments, for example. Departments from the variouscountries involved in SAP Marketing put together videos introducing themselves. Theyuploaded their podcast videos to a social media platform, where the best video was thendetermined using the rating function.Performance ManagementSocial media can also be incorporated into the performance management process andhelp define and monitor employee goals and further development depending on what isused. In a simple scenario, communities could be set up specifically for this purpose,allowing managers to learn on-demand during the performance management processand get mentored by HR experts.Using social media for actual performance management, however, is more revolutionary.A product featuring typical social media functions was developed in a pilot project carriedout by SAP. It featured: Employee profiles with options for status updates, feeds, notifications, requests, and soon An option to share goals – publicly or confidentially with the manager A function to publish activities and tasks for each goal, which can be viewed by peoplein the network over time Evaluations of goals and activities – from managers and other personsIt will undoubtedly take some time before such a radical application sees acceptance forbinding areas such as performance management, even if the resonance from the US andyounger users is extremely positive.
  6. 6. Social Media in Learning and Talent DevelopmentInternal Talent MarketsTransparent employee profiles can make talent management more effective. This meansmoving toward a more transparent internal talent market in which employees searchindependently for career options (pull instead of push) and (more or less) presentthemselves using public profiles. This shifts the primary focus to the individual, sincetalents are becoming more and more scarce due to demographic changes (Trost, Frosch,2011). Employees want to pursue attractive positions, which they determine according tolifestyle, employer branding, or quality of work. In addition to employee transparency,this also demands a high level of transparency for positions in the internal talent market.If we consider the current practice, which has a strong focus on processes, target profilesfor key positions, the definition of successors, or evaluation of performance managementdata, there is still some way to go. Needless to say, new approaches for internal talentmarkets have to be integrated into the processes for filling positions and selectingpersonnel.Success Factors and Lessons LearnedIn recent years, SAP has gained various insights into ensuring the successfulimplementation of social media. This section presents these insights as success factorsand lessons learned.Where infrastructure is concerned, it is key to strike a balance between a centralized anddecentralized approach. One common advantage of decentralized pilots is the bottom-upimplementation approach that is applied. Since the “social Web” relies on active userparticipation, this approach is often more effective than a top-down implementation. Afurther advantage of decentralized pilots is flexible, rapid success. In contrast, theadvantage of a centralized approach is the integrated infrastructure and the close alliancewith the IT department.The long-term objective should always be to integrate new social media tools into thestandard IT landscape in a way that allows structured content on the corporate portal tobe found, in addition to podcasts, wiki pages, or forum posts. Central user managementsystems can be used in parallel to facilitate simple, high-quality user management.The technical foundations on which social media are used must be solid: Softwareperformance must be fast and tools must be easy to use. Fundamental issues, such asdata privacy and reporting, must first be addressed with the relevant committees andapproved by the works council (in countries where this is relevant).As with all trends driven by technology, it is always important to focus on the value addedrather than getting caught up in the technology euphoria. It is crucial to always considerthe actual objectives of a measure to ensure the best methods and tools are ultimatelyused. There are a number of proven nontechnical measures, such as providing coffee
  7. 7. Managers as Talent Managerscorners, peer learning, coaching, and mentoring, that can also help promote informallearning.The trend for «social» technologies is shifting from individual tools to corporate socialmedia platforms that merge all relevant functions – from wikis and blogs togroups/rooms and profiles, and even mobile apps. Mobile access via apps or browsers ontablet PCs has become a must.In some scenarios, such as communities of practice, these platforms can be usedindependently. Social media can also be integrated into online help for systems – to helpusers help themselves. It is generally beneficial to integrate social media into businessprocesses and systems used. This integration may automate certain activities (automaticcreation of collaboration groups, automatic assignment of participants when courses arebooked, and so on) and thereby improve operational efficiency. While free platforms area good option for pilots, they are not considered sustainable options in the medium termsince they are generally financed by advertising and the sale of user data.As a solution provider, SAP offers its customers a range of predefined integration options,both for existing customers who have already installed SAP products in their corporateinfrastructure, and customers who want to subscribe to software via the Internet (cloudsoftware). The SAP social media tools can be integrated into business processes based onthe approach deemed most suitable.Usability RequirementsEven if the tools are essentially easy to use, it is important to ensure that users are able touse them – by providing FAQ lists, short multimedia units, demos, instructions, oroverviews indicating how each tool is to be used for what, for example.Social media guidelines can help make requirements for the use of social mediatransparent (Vassilian 2009). These guidelines should reflect corporate culture and shouldnot be limited to general, socially desirable statements. Should barriers be identified (inthe manner in which knowledge is shared, for example), change management measuresto adapt the learning and knowledge culture must be initiated.Special considerations must be made for older employees – since the younger generationwho are more familiar with the use of social media tools are just a subset of theworkforce. Examples, demonstrations, and specific situations can be used to ally fears. Acritical mass of users and a facilitator for the startup phase are required to ensuresufficient activity. Typical user types and distribution of users are as follows: 70 percent lurkers: users who are logged on and view content, but do not activelyparticipate in the community 20 percent commenters: users who comment on or reply to existing articles, blogs,questions, or similar
  8. 8. Social Media in Learning and Talent Development 10 percent creators: highly active community users who submit articles or create blogs,for example – to set up effective communities some creators need to be available andmotivated, ideally in the set-up phase.Board blogs written by communication departments are rarely successful due to theirlack of authenticity. A more successful approach is to use multipliers such as trainees andstudents as “teachers” and reverse mentors for Web 2.0 tools. Fears about potential toolmisuse (such as hidden performance management) should be addressed openly andspecifically discussed with committees such as the works council or data security officers.Processes and ContentSocial media tools such as communities are not “self running.” They have to be managedand supported. This requires new roles to be defined or existing roles to be extended,such as those of trainers or personnel development managers. Community facilitators,online mentors, and wiki gardeners are the new roles to be filled. And working hours andresources must be allocated accordingly.Leveraging early existing available content, whether podcasts or discussions, plays animportant role in generating immediate benefit. This can be achieved using instructions atthe meta level or exceptional content, examples of which would be contributions fromknown persons or valued experts within the company, or articles on relevant topics suchas strategic initiatives or new products.It is crucial to align content with corporate priorities and to avoid limiting the focus onlyto typical education fields such as languages or management training. However, contentthat is sensitive or legally binding is less appropriate on social media. It is important todefine clearly which content is to be managed and is therefore safeguarded, validated,reliable, binding, and up to date, and hence is not suitable as user-generated content.Personnel development departments should strive for an instructional design integrationto ensure that social media are not an end to themselves, but an integral part of learningarrangements.When social media are introduced, it is important to define success criteria using keyfigures such as (active) use, contributions, acceptance, and perceived benefit. At SAP, forexample, statistics are recorded on the number of podcasts created and used, wikientries and basic read access, top ratings and top discussions. This information is alsochanneled back to communities to motivate contributors and draw attention to contentof particular interest.Role of Learning and Talent Development and ManagementL&D managers in particular can contribute significantly to social media implementations –be this their competence in change processes, or their pedagogic competence. This helps
  9. 9. Managers as Talent Managersprevent social media implementations from becoming too technology oriented. Inaddition to including social media in their service portfolio, L&D managers can use socialmedia to position themselves strategically as competent points of contact.These examples underline the many ways in which social media can support personneldevelopment. And associations such as the ASTD (American Society of Training &Development, 2011) highlight their growing relevance, declaring social learning a new“area of expertise” in 2011. These competencies include: The use of social learning technologies Knowledge of various tools, their areas of application, and their limitations Techniques in overcoming organizational hurdles during implementationManagement will also be faced with new requirements. In an environment in which it isestablished practice to voice criticism and feedback, they can expect decisions to becalled into question more often and become more difficult to enforce. If hierarchies in acompany have strongly shaped its decision making to date, the interaction structures onthe social Web call for decision-making facilitation rather than decision making. Thisdemands more responsibility and commitment from employees and less governancefrom managers.BibliographyASTD (2011): One-page summary About Social Learning (PDF): Accessed on 8/27/2012under, J; Maurer, M. (2011): Talent Management in mittelständischen Banken. In:Trost, A. (ed.), Jenewein, T. (ed.) (2011). Personalentwicklung 2.0. Lernen,Wissensaustausch und Talentförderung der nächsten Generation. Cologne, Germany:Luchterhand. Jenewein, T. (2012): Best Practices im Lern-Management für die erweiterteLerncommunity. Zeitschrift für Personalwirtschaft. Edition 9, 2012. Cologne, Germany:LuchterlandPloski, V.; Ulrich, K.; Ehmann, H.-M. (2011): Change Management 2.0 – Mehr Erfolg durchSocial Media? In: Trost, A. / Jenewein, T. (ed.) (2011). Personalentwicklung 2.0. Lernen,Wissensaustausch und Talentförderung der nächsten Generation. Cologne, Germany:LuchterhandTrost, A.; Frosch, M (2011): Interne Talentmärkte. In: Trost, A. (ed.), Jenewein, T. (ed.)(2011). Personalentwicklung 2.0. Lernen, Wissensaustausch und Talentförderung dernächsten Generation. Cologne, Germany: LuchterhandTrost, A. (ed.), Jenewein, T. (ed.) (2011). Personalentwicklung 2.0. Lernen,Wissensaustausch und Talentförderung der nächsten Generation. Cologne, Germany:LuchterhandVassilian, L. (2009): Social Media Guidelines in Unternehmen: Knigge für Twitter. Online:
  10. 10. Social Media in Learning and Talent Development viewed on: 11/2/2010).Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge(UK). Wikipedia, 2012: Social_Media. Accessed on 5/29/2012 under