More and more organizations today are embracing knowledge sharing as a way to promote learning and development. Our concept of “Employee-generated Learning” helps organizations move in this direction.
Employee-generated Learning is driven by subject matter experts (SMEs) and owned by learning and development (L&D) teams. If implemented in the right conditions, culture, and content, it overcomes major challenges facing learning teams.
However, experience shows that only a small percentage of SMEs have the desire to share their knowledge and expertise. Can this small percentage make a difference in L&D’s efforts to boost workforce development?
How many SMEs will actively share their knowledge?
Last year, I wrote a post about the fact that only a minority of employees are willing to actively share their knowledge and experience. In that post, I divided employees into three groups:
- The willing (10%): In any given company, only 10% of employees are willing to actively share their knowledge.
- The able (20%): This group is willing to share knowledge if they are invited or encouraged to do so.
- The lazy (70%): The majority of employees are unwilling to share their knowledge or experience at all. They can be considered consumers of the knowledge created by the other two groups.
J.D. Dillon, an important influencer in the learning community, recently published a blog post entitled “The Fallacy of the Social Workplace” in which he divides employees into similar groups:
- The creators (1%)
- The commenters (9%)
- The lurkers (90%)
As you can see, his percentages are significantly lower than mine. What if he is right? Is this the end of employee-generated learning and knowledge sharing in general?
One out of a hundred?
J.D. states that only one out of 100 employees is willing to actively share his or her knowledge. Even if he’s right, the results are still impressive. Here’s why:
Imagine one percent of a company’s SMEs can capture their knowledge and create modules using a tool like Easygenerator. Our experience shows that they will create one module every two months on average, with an average course duration of 15 minutes – so, six modules with a total (learning) duration of 1.5 hours in a year. What is the value of this content?
A study by Raccoon Gang estimates that the cost of creating an hour-long e-learning course ranges from $8,880 to $28,640 (or $18,760 on average). That means the 1.5 hours of learning content created by a single SME in a year represents an average value of $28,814. For a company with 500 employees, the value adds up to $140,000. For a company with 10,000 employees, it’s $2.8 million! In short, even if only one percent of employees participate, it still creates tremendous value. The cost of implementing Employee-generated Learning is only a small fraction of the return.
Case Study: Unilever
Last year, Unilever started using Easygenerator for a selected group of 100 employees. They ensured this group was able to easily share its knowledge. After one year of using Easygenerator, Unilever decided to buy a corporate license, allowing anyone in the company to start creating content. With their 169,000 employees and the calculations above, the content they create will represent a value of well over $30 million. I can assure you that the costs of Employee-generated Learning at Unilever will be a mere fraction of this amount.
Activating the one percent
To make Employee-generated Learning work, you must find and activate that one percent of willing SMEs in your company. Here are some best practices for doing that:
- Find the one percent:
- Most “one percenters” are already actively sharing their knowledge. Check your company’s internal social media sites to see who is participating in discussions as an SME. Who are the go-to people in certain domains and who has a desire to share their expertise?
- Activate and educate:
- Teach the one percent how to create something better and even more educational than a Powerpoint presentation or PDF. Give them the right tools and support them in creating meaningful learning content.
- Whenever SMEs publish content, make sure to add their credentials to the content. Let them shine and claim their spot as an expert. Be sure to recognize and reward them for their efforts so they will stay motivated to keep up the good work.
- Start small and build from there
- Any knowledge-sharing initiative takes time to develop and flourish. Start small, celebrate and draw attention to your successes and gradually your program will expand.
To sum up, even if only one percent of your employees shares knowledge actively, it is still a great investment. A large portion of the content created by SMEs can be used to replace content created centrally by L&D. This reduces your company’s development costs. Even if L&D has to tweak the content before releasing it as an official company course, it still saves precious time and money. Plus, working with SMEs is a proven formula for expanding your company’s knowledge database with hours of valuable training material, so L&D is free to focus its time and efforts more strategically.