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The rise of user-created content

Relatable content is a big part of a winning L&D strategy. Users are far more likely to engage with content shared by their colleagues, peers, and friends – and it’s getting easier for them to create it.

We live in an always-on, always-connected world. The ubiquity of social media has irrevocably changed the way that we discover, experience and share content. These changes have filtered through to every aspect of our daily lives, from entertainment to public information to learning.

As Todd Tauber pointed out in a recent article, four in ten workers actively share knowledge and skills with each other. That might be user-discovered content such as articles, social posts and videos. But there’s an increasing appetite – and need – for user-created content.

Sitting on a diamond mine

One of the many paradigm shifts currently underway in learning is making use of the ‘invisible’ resources within an organisation – skills and knowledge that already exists but has only been tapped one a one-to-one basis rather than on an enterprise level. It’s often the case that some departments or employees consistently perform better than others, but whilst their winning strategies might be recognised and rewarded, the secret sauce usually stays in the bottle.

That’s no longer the case; forward-looking businesses are beginning to turn their radars inwards. Identifying those key players and their gems is only the start, though. Putting their secrets and tactics in the hands of everyone is a new concept that needs a new approach.

Shifting to social

Traditional learning strategies and Learning Management Systems are generally geared towards courses – either classroom-based or eLearning modules built from a library of third-party content. This one-size-fits-all approach is practical for foundational knowledge or compliance training, but less effective elsewhere; in fact, it can actually be detrimental if it supplants the ‘invisible’ best practices with ones that are generic and unproductive.

There’s also the resistance aspect. Employees are unlikely to take on board learning from a stranger in a classroom or a faceless eLearning module. But they’re much more likely to learn from their colleagues and peers, the people that they know, trust and like.

This is where user-created content comes into its own. Articles, podcasts and videos with a familiar tone of voice not only tend to resonate more, they cut through the red tape associated with formalised learning.

And delivering these nuggets via a social learning approach makes them easier to access and consume. A bitesized how-to video delivered at the point of practical need will be used right then and there, and it’s far more likely to be remembered than a module delivered three months ago in a beige conference suite on the ring road.

All the world’s a stage

It’s been asserted that it’s rare for workers to create learning content. That may have been true in the past, but it’s a situation that is rapidly changing.

Facebook, YouTube, and their ilk are no longer niche offerings targeted at Millennials and Generation Z (if indeed they ever were). Age is only one of the barriers that’s been removed; massive investment has made these platforms and technologies accessible, ubiquitous, part of the everyday lives of billions of people.

It’s that familiarity that’s making user-generated content easy and, above all, comfortable to create. Integrated Learning Platforms like Fuse come with capture-and-share functionalities built right in. Whether it’s an article or a how-to-video, the tools to create, like and share content are instantly accessible and instantly familiar.

In a world where everyone’s a photographer, a journalist or a vlogger, there’s no barrier to them also becoming a mentor – as long as they’re given access to the tools that they need.

Reaping the (measurable) rewards

It’s also been suggested that there is no data on how workers actually generate learning content, or on its impact. And in the world of the traditional LMS, this was mostly true.

But measurement is core to Integrated Learning Platforms – and in fact, the biggest small innovation if the ILP concept is to define the desired business outcomes first and build the learning around them. When those results are sourced from the previously-siloed high performers, the approach becomes even more organic and responsive.

Carpetright found that employing user-created content not only transformed the learning habits of their workforce, but in a timed study conducted with Fuse Universal and UCL, they saw a 13% increase in profits. Swedish luxury watch manufacturer Daniel Wellington also found that user-created content had a huge positive impact on their workforce engagement – whether it was used to deliver product updates, staff competitions and new business initiatives.

A few years back, Gartner predicted that user-created content would be used by 80% of L&D teams by now. We might not be quite there yet, but it’s clear that user-created content – like global instant messaging and face-to-face video calling – is no longer a plaything of the future.

And it's worth remembering that the future is closer than it seems, something that Julian Stodd covered in our recent webinar. 

Have a look for yourself.

Ant O'Neill
Sep 04 2019

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