Self-direction seems to be a major trend in today’s organizations. This applies not only to everyday tasks and projects but also to the way employees want to learn. With L&D budgets getting smaller and the demand for fresh materials that are up to date with market developments, a new current is on the rise.
Today’s workers search for online resources and courses whenever they are faced with a challenge or need to solve a problem. These resources are not necessarily the work of internal learning designers but created by peers and professionals working in the same field.
Apart from sensitive internal procedures or safety information, content is increasingly likely to be employee-generated or curated.
Taking a user-generated approach to learning is consistent with the disruptive transformations of old-school corporate learning. Essentially, this way of disseminating knowledge in the organization means giving subject matter experts a free hand in creating and editing learning content in their specific areas of expertise.
The generic name for this is employee-generated learning (EGL).
Course creation can be time and resource consuming
L&D departments face the challenge of keeping up with all the transformations that rapidly happen and bring with them new and higher demands. Designers are urged to produce more content and make it as diverse and engaging as possible.
Since cost reduction is also a major trend these days they have to do with diminishing resources, whether we are talking about logistics or employees – departments tend to become increasingly smaller and have to serve large organizations with offices spread all over the globe.
The traditional process of creating learning material takes a very long time. There is the initial training needs assessment, the research, getting input from SMEs, running a pilot and only then releasing the new course.
In current conditions, going about it this way can lead to new material becoming irrelevant or obsolete before they reach the users. Even if a course does initially benefit from an overview and some additions by a SME, keeping it updated to stay relevant to the business can prove to be an impossible task.
Employee-generated learning is the answer for a number of issues
The sensible and easy solution to this is employee-generated learning. It does not take the work away from the L&D specialists but moves part of the responsibility for creating content into the departments that will benefit from it.
- Apart from being a lot more cost effective, actively involving employees into the learning design process ensures higher engagement rates.
- SMEs are no longer simple consultants but play an active role in information dissemination.
- Many specific, regional requests can be addressed a lot faster locally without having to engage the central HR department.
- Empowering employees to choose and construct their own training content not only speeds up the whole process but also guarantees that the end result will be right on target.
It’s important though to have a very easy to use framework in place for it to work. L&D specialists change roles and they become consultants who serve as facilitators between learners and SMEs. They also have to assess if the resulting material should be deployed on a larger scale or if it is only relevant where it was requested in the first place.
The new role of L&D specialists
Where professional learning designers are concerned, they should not worry about this shift in content creation dynamics. The fact that SMEs take over as the main architects and pretty much anybody in the organization can initiate and complete course creation means that instructional designers also have to assume a different role.
What I mean by this is that their part will be less about the creation of the actual content itself and more about the facilitation of content creation by subject matter experts within the organization.
Even if content moves outside their area, managing the design process, adding and editing structural elements and coaching the contributors still pertains to professional course designers. Setting course objectives, figuring out a way to measure the outcomes and calculate a ROI as well as gathering and analyzing learner feedback are still part of the L&D job description.
When it comes to authoring tools and handling the corporate LMS, L&D professionals need to act as guides in order to make sure that the new learning creators find them user friendly and easy to use.
All in all
Like all major shifts, adoption of EGL will prove to be disruptive to the already very dynamic corporate learning environment. Yes, progress implies change, so the sooner companies understand the benefits and adopt this approach to employee development, the better for all involved.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.