Simon C Walker Basic Author | 2 Articles Joined: January 26, 2010 United Kingdom Social Feedback – Step Changing Learning and Development

We all know the way we are accessing information has changed for ever. Trying to pinpoint how this knowledge is turning into actual learning is not so clear. A critical question for business today is how to turn just ‘knowing more’ into improved ways of performing that really help us learn to be more competitive, innovative and productive.

Recent research has shown that key to understanding the new ways people are ‘learning’ rather than just ‘acquiring knowledge’ is a requirement for a much deeper understanding of the social networking phenomenon. In other words it is not simply knowing where information is about how to do something but more importantly it seems, how people use networks to share their experiences and learn from each other that is making the difference. How experiences and knowledge flow through and across networks is being modelled at some of the leading research institutes like Harvard to understand many societal issues including the spread of flu epidemics; political ideologies and social changes to more business related issues of innovation, employee engagement and learning and development.

Also key to finding answers to this question of how more knowledge is turning into real development of skills and capabilities is some really significant research undertaken by Marshall Goldsmith on effective learning. Across a population of 11,000 people his work showed that if you involve other people in helping you choose a development goal, then choose just one goal which you then share back with the same group and then encourage them to give you feedback against that goal you were much more likely to develop and significantly improve performance. The research further showed that the amount of ‘peer follow up’ was directly proportional to that development.

A problem created for Human Resources

Both these bodies of research potentially present a problem for Human Resources which has become, in the last couple of decades, the main function in businesses for driving Learning and Development strategies for their employees. These bodies of research together with the appearance in the work place of the Gen ‘X’ and now Gen ‘Y’ populations suggest that traditional approaches to learning either simply do not apply or are increasingly ineffective. Even where they do apply, (Goldsmiths work suggests regular feedback and coaching on specific topics work – not a new phenomenon) there still remains the problem of scale, cost and consistency.

Approaches of simply supplying the same training and knowledge through different medium, such as webinars, apps etc., has not been enough. It is simply replicating rather than solving the problem. Also spending time assessing and selecting people to receive the limited resources there are so a few lucky ‘high potentials receive the lion’s share of the learning budget has proved largely ineffective. It has often alienated the majority and is a huge gamble on guessing correctly who the really high potential people are. While approaches to talent management and learning and development have had some success in recent years they are simply not keeping pace with the new world of work and methods and content often feel out of date before they are implemented. There needs to be a fundamental shift – a step change – in the way businesses and human resources embrace the social networking phenomenon.

Social Feedback – Solving a problem now

A powerful solution has emerged that is step changing the approach to learning. Organisations who grasp the idea will be the most innovative, competitive and productive in the next decade. Social feedback is more than an idea or marketing label. So what is it? Social feedback has taken the trends in the social network space where people are increasingly open to sharing personal information, thoughts, experiences and feelings. It has combined it with the best methods of acquiring new skills outlined in the Marshal Goldman research. It has integrated the most well researched, proven model of human behaviour development and then most importantly provided a wrapping of sophisticated technology as the engine to enable, drive and facilitate a whole new approach to learning.

It is truly ground breaking. For the first time a learning approach that meets the needs of the ‘new world of work’ is available to the majority in an affordable and flexible way that genuinely allows, enables and encourages people to develop themselves through their networks.

At the heart of the process is what historically been described as a 360° feedback tool. In other words a questionnaire driven report that asks colleagues to provide you with feedback. In the past this well-trodden path has, at best, provided some interesting perspectives for a coach or manager to give some feedback on where a person might want to focus their improvement.

Social feedback uses this as the starting point for on-going conversations that helps and supports an individual’s development continuously. The step change and innovation here is in the continuous nature of the learning and development. Once ‘kicked off’ the technology helps drive a structured but continuous conversation amongst chosen colleagues on aspects of performance when they have opted in to do so. So, for example, who best to help a sales person improve their pitching skills then colleagues who see them in action and are prompted to provide timely feedback and ideas on specific things about their pitching that they need to improve. The technology not only provides the platform but also drives the process making sure learning isn’t an event or moment in time but continuously looking for ways to improve.

Using technology and social networks means that real scale can be achieved. Organisations can look to provide effective development, literally to everyone, in a way that is continuous and enduring. Social feedback is the future and is here now.

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