You may have heard a lot about user-generated content (UGC) with respect to marketing. But the power of peer-to-peer communication, whether face-to-face or across space and time, can actually help you capture your company’s tribal knowledge, enhance your training program, and build a learning culture.
Employees create training content for their peers to learn from.
User-generated content refers to anything employees create for their colleagues to reference or learn from. It’s usually stored and searchable online. But also refers to informal conversations, micro-mentoring sessions and learning from others.
Some learning and development (L&D) professionals view any informal learning as UGC. And many have recognized its value in a training program. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018, 80% of learning and development programs will incorporate user-generated content.
L&D professionals realize that UGC is one of the first steps in building a learning culture, which many companies are aiming for today. It builds trust between team members and encourages employees to develop support networks within the company that reach beyond their immediate colleagues and managers. Millenials, in particular, trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.
Management challenges keep UGC in the background.
But UGC, distributed and informal, doesn’t lend itself to management and structure, which gives many companies the jitters about building a training program around it. A Training Industry survey revealed that 42% of respondents identified problems with content accuracy as the main difficulty with UGC.
So many companies continue to focus development efforts on their formal training classes and offer platforms like chat rooms to encourage UGC.
But simply providing channels for UGC misses a big opportunity for on the job learning.
Hit-and-miss conversations around the office may result in insights every now and then, but sharing between employees is most powerful when it’s focused on solving a problem. The challenge comes in creating the structure that helps match up a problem to its solution whenever the problem pops up.
Structure and accountability turn UGC into powerful training.
If employees can find the people or information they need to help them when faced with a challenge, they can use that resource to best advantage and get past knowledge gaps quickly and seamlessly. But it’s more than just finding an article or video that a peer created.
The learner has to be able to apply the knowledge to her problem. She may need some guidance initially or some demonstration. And she hasn’t learned anything new until she uses it effectively.
So simply finding the UGC is the beginning of the process. To benefit from it, she needs to work with colleagues who confirm her mastery and account for the results of her new knowledge.
Thus, when an employee draws on peer knowledge, we need a way to follow that process, encourage it, and track the outcome. That’s when UGC becomes an unstoppable tool for improving performance.
Team leaders manage UGC learning.
Ultimately, team managers have to take on employee development as one of their responsibilities. While L&D professionals can contribute with formal courses and help curate user-generated content for quality and accessibility, managers have to know what their direct reports are trying to accomplish and whom they’re leaning on to do it.
Managers don’t need to get in the way of the process, but they have to be aware enough to jump in if an employee gets stuck, match up employees and mentors to tackle problems, follow up to make sure the problem is solved, and recognize all parties for their contributions.
Only managers have this level of insight, and their actions and priorities have much more influence on their team than L&D departments can.
It may seem counter-intuitive to give 1st-line managers one more job to do. But, as Training Industry notes, managers are some of the biggest contributors to UGC, so why take the time and energy to create resources and then let them languish? Why not take the extra step to ensure that peer knowledge makes a real impact on performance?
For those bold enough to see it through, user-generated content may be crowd-sourced revolution for employee learning and development.
If you’re a manager who’d like to see how user-generated content could help your team and how you can easily manage it for measurable results, contact us for a demo.