How L&D can unlock the power of user-generated contentby
User-generated content can be used to create more agile and engaging learning solutions at a time when L&D is increasingly squeezed for time, resources and budget. Sheridan Webb provides tips for incorporating this type of peer learning into your strategy.
The world of L&D (like everything) is moving faster and faster.
We are under pressure to deliver development more quickly than ever before that provides a personalised learning experience and suits flexible working patterns while budgets only ever seem to be squeezed and reduced, and teams are getting smaller.
We need to find a smarter way of designing and delivering effective solutions.
What’s the need?
Firstly, we must decide if the need is a momentary one: something that needs a quick answer (and won’t need to be retained), or something that is more fundamental and needs to be internalised. No need to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut!
The pace of work increasingly means that formal courses aren’t always the best solution.
They take too long to research, design and deliver (even if you use artificial intelligence (AI) to assist you) and often include a lot of supplementary content that is NICE to know, rather than NEED to know.
But there IS a resource (often untapped) that can deliver up-to-date, relevant information in a user-friendly way and on demand. And that’s the knowledge, skills and experience of the workforce: user-generated content (UGC).
We are under pressure to deliver development more quickly than ever before.
Types of user-generated content
UGC is being created all the time in organisations – it’s just not being captured and shared.
It takes many forms, including:
- Employee blogs
- Homemade videos
- Peer recommendations
- Podcasts or short audio clips
- Interviews with employees
- Real-life case studies (told in their own words)
- Employee generated checklists
- Discussion groups
- Notice boards
- Infographics or posters
- Problem solving clinics
- Stories, myths and legends!
Why should organisations use it?
Apart from the fact that it’s already being generated, there are many reasons to harness it.
1. It’s fast and direct
No need to go through multiple layers or formal channels.
2. It’s immediately applicable
It tends to be specific, relating to a particular problem or issue and is situational, which aids transfer of learning.
3. It is completely personalised
It combines the knowledge of those directly involved, building relationships and breaking down barriers.
4. It’s empowering
It puts people front and centre of their own learning experience. They decide what to learn, when, who from and how.
5. It’s integrated into the flow of work
Whether that is a conversation, on-the-job coaching, watching a video, or reading a how-to guide; it’s directly related to the job.
6. It’s (almost always) up to date
People share experiences and knowledge about how things are now in their reality. Courses quickly go out of date. Everyday practice does not.
7. It’s completely bespoke
It reflects the way things are done in your organisation, making it completely relevant and instantly transferrable.
8. It’s cost effective
No need to bring in expensive consultants, jump through hoops to secure funding for a programme, or invest in complicated software.
There IS a resource (often untapped) that can deliver up-to-date, relevant information in a user-friendly way and on demand. And that’s the knowledge, skills and experience of the workforce: user-generated content.
Why do individuals engage with it?
Individuals engage with user-generated content because it appeals to the five social dimensions identified by David Rock in his SCARF model:
- Status: It recognises expertise, builds reputations and gives people their 15 minutes of fame
- Certainty: There’s social proof – people can learn from those with a proven track record
- Autonomy: Creators drive the agenda, and learners are in charge of own learning
- Relatedness: It connects people in the organisation, shares good practice and encourages collaboration
- Fairness: Input from diverse perspectives and all parts of the business (not just the centre) encourages inclusivity (not elitist)
Plus, we all know about the IKEA effect ... that people value things more when they’ve had input into creating them
So it makes sense to incorporate UGC into your learning strategy. It’s a win-win-win for your organisation, individuals and for you as a busy L&D professional!
Here’s how you can make it happen
1. Firstly, we need to get over ourselves and get out of our own way
Handing over (some) power and responsibility to users feels scary. Not everything will be successful, but most things will. Work on best case (not worst case) scenarios.
2. Make it easy
Don’t use overly complicated platforms, have multiple sign-off points or require specialist equipment. Let people use their phones, laptops and even pen and paper to create content. Find ways to capture what is already being created.
3. Provide guidelines and rules for people to follow
And provide training (if necessary) to give people the confidence to get involved
4. Provide suggestions regarding content
You don’t want 80 people sending in the same content. Provide an example, be specific in your requests.
It makes sense to incorporate UGC into your learning strategy. It’s a win-win-win for your organisation, individuals and for you as a busy L&D professional.
5. Keep the content moving
Rotate it regularly to keep people coming back. Especially those who have contributed resources.
6. Recognise and reward those who contribute
Especially those from under-represented groups and parts of the business. It will encourage diversity and inclusion.
7. Celebrate the successes of those who use UGC to good effect
This will encourage others to use it AND reassure senior stakeholders that is a valuable part of the L&D strategy.
8. Curate and moderate
USG can’t be a free-for-all. It needs to be approved BUT remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect, as long as it isn’t wrong or offensive/inappropriate.
As busy L&D practitioners, we should aim to embrace UGC not only as a tool but as a mindset.
It’s a treasure-trove of untapped talent in any organisation. It's a great way to foster collaboration, innovation and continuous development for everyone.
In the journey to engage learners and deliver agile learning in a cost-effective way, UGC can be a most powerful ally.
If you enjoyed this, read: Five ways to build a collaborative learning culture
Sheridan runs the Training Designers Club to share expertise to make training design quicker, easier and less stressful, especially for lone L&D professionals. She has over 25 years experience designing bespoke solutions for large organisations. She also provides hosts the...