By: Pete Weaver
There are three general principles that should guide your plans to leverage social technology, particularly for leadership development and other “soft” skills:
1. Formal Learning is Still Important.
Our experience is that most interaction and leadership skills are actually best acquired and honed in a formal, intentional learning experience that includes lots of time for controlled practice and feedback.
Social media tools should never serve as a replacement to formal learning! Rather, they are ideal for surrounding and enriching the formal learning events. Social media technologies are best suited to:
- Setting the stage for learning.
- Helping extend the learning.
- Keeping learners focused on applying their skills.
- Enhancing networking opportunities within a cohort of learners.
It is our firm belief that while the social tools sometimes seem magical, the true magic remains in the optimal mix of learning experiences.
2. Test to Learn—Adapt to Perfect.
There are two major arenas to pilot and test before you take social learning technology wide and deep: 1) people and 2) technology. Don’t underestimate the challenges with either.
Use focus groups, test cohorts, feedback surveys, and anecdotal hearsay to test and refine your approach with your people. Seek help from technical partners (internal and/or external) to shake out the new technology in your environment, on your devices, in your software mix, and through your firewall.
3. Don't Cut Communication Corners.
When an organization chooses to use social media to drive learning and development, it should take care to devote the same communication and orientation resources that it would for any major change initiative. There are no smart shortcuts to introducing technology for something as personal as learning. Be sure to plan and execute a thoughtful approach to communication and implementation suited to your culture and objectives.
Sometimes Pliers Are a Better Option
While there are numerous social media types and platforms available, some are more appropriate than others for learning and development in “soft skill” areas like leadership. We need to match the tool to the need; some social learning tools are better pliers than hammers. Each technology provides a different array of benefits, but no technology will work across all organizations or implementations, nor will it suit every type of content or topic.
Remember to seek an effective and balanced mix rather than putting the full training burden on just one approach, to test for both people and technology compatibility, and finally to thoroughly communicate and execute the strategy.
My father taught me at an early age two important things about household and automotive tools—1) having the right tool for the job is one key to success, and 2) knowing how to use it is equally important. Our craft in learning and development is no different. Matching the right mix of solutions for each situation is more important than conjuring up as many ways to use our “hammer du jour” as we can contrive.
To learn more about integrating development tools and activities before, during, and after formal learning events, register for DDI’s Accelerating Development Beyond the Classroom webinar on February 12, 2013 from to 1-1:45 pm.
Patterson S. (Pete) Weaver is DDI’s Senior Vice President, Leadership Solutions.