Is peer-produced content the secret to driving engagement and all your learning goals?

Before we dive into this blog post, we think it’s important that we quickly answer an obvious but important question: Why the focus on Engagement?

Well, we believe engagement should be the top of the funnel when it comes to learning metrics. If your people don’t find the platform enjoyable they won’t use it. If you’re making it mandatory to use a platform and the experience sucks, it’s hardly going to lift your employee engagement rates. If engagement is ignored, everything measured further down the funnel (e.g. completion rate, correctness scores and knowledge retention) are going to fall short of your goals.

We recently deployed SmartUp with a globally renowned financial services brand and we’re excited to be able to share what this deployment is teaching us about what it really means to engage busy people in today’s work place.

The initial implementation was designed to accelerate growth of the digital mindset of their leadership group. The content was a blend of SmartUp’s premium content library on 21st century skills and their own, which focused on their digital strategy and transformation as an organization.

We’ve summarized some of the results below:

  • Participants read more than 2255 micro-learning modules or xxx per day.
  • The average user completed between 5 and 49 pieces of content (getting more details on this — there must be a more compelling story here).
  • More than 20% of participants completed more than 50 modules, with 9% completing more than 100.
  • The average completion rate across all participants was 97.6%
  • The top times for for people to engage with the content was 4pm, 8pm, 9pm and of a surprising spike at 10pm (Read into this what you will but we see this as a clear indicator that the content on the platform was being consumed at times that social and other media were being consumed — in their own time).
  • The third most popular day for learning was Saturday and if combined with the numbers from Sunday, the weekend would have been the most popular day for people to learn.

These are wonderful results which we’ve seen across our other clients, in other sectors. However, there’s one more number that is as exciting as it is surprising: The amount of times that peer-produced content was read was more than double than that of content created from a centralized source. This is exciting because it reveals something that we believe most organizations are capable of. It’s surprising because it creates new opportunities for the learning and development teams of the future.

What do we believe organizations are capable of?

For generations, successful leaders have been able to motivate their highest performing employees by asking them to unleash what they really know to unlock their full potential. Successful tech startups are an often cited example of this. This Fast Company article talks to Google’s approach to peer-produced learning and how more than 55% of their training is delivered by colleagues.

At SmartUp, in our collective pasts we’ve worked in both large and established businesses and startups. We’ve employed from both and what we’ve found is that past experience is not an indicator of success. What is, is the ability for people to bring their full-selves to the workplace and empowering them to share their knowledge with anyone, anywhere in the organization.

Whilst in large organizations this happens in pockets, scaling and institutionalizing these behaviors is a challenge. The knowledge exposed in the traditional workplace represents only a small amount of what your people really know. It’s just that traditional organizational structures, silos and politics stifle the ability for people to bring their full potential (and base of knowledge) to work. We are seeing that empowering, recognizing and rewarding peer-produced content can pay huge dividends. Not just through accelerated learning or the desired changes in behavior that learning triggers, but for overall employee engagement and making the organizations that adopt the approach attractive for new talent.

So, what does this mean for the L&D team of the future?

Beyond the intangible benefits, the cost savings of a peer driven approach are apparent. According to the Association of Talent Development companies spend almost $1300 per employee on training, peer produced content should reduce this.

This clearly makes peer-produced content an exciting proposition and it’s certainly something that you should be looking for your LMS vendor to provide, however the real benefits will not be realized unless L&D teams understand that their role in adopting the approach may need to change.

One of the new roles we see emerging is about building community around these new internal content creators. Whilst the adoption of peer to peer learning has to come from the top, is there a part of the L&D team that focuses on growing the community of content creators, deeply understanding their motivations and finding new ways to reward them for their efforts?

In organizations where introducing completely open peer-to-peer learning might not be culturally appropriate, is L&D responsible for the sourcing and vetting of new modules or is this left to subject matter experts?

If you’re open to sourcing fresh knowledge from outside of the organization, how do you set up these partnerships to ensure a steady stream content? Do you develop a new role around managing (and rewarding these partnerships)?

As with any change, adopting peer-produced content as an approach means carefully considering the shape of the team that will be driving it.

We also recognize that this kind of change has it’s challenges. The real shift here is about putting your people at the heart of the learning experience, we’ve written another post here with some tips about how to go about doing this using Design Thinking tools. We also believe it’s our responsibility to help you think through this — each implementation needs to be specifically customized to suit the company and it’s culture. And, as we continue on this journey we’d love you to share your thoughts with me personally or leave us a comment with your thoughts below.

SmartUp.io is the leading peer-to-peer knowledge sharing platform, used by startups and corporates, especially for innovation, future skills and digital mindset. We are gamefying the creation and sharing of knowledge.

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