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With less than 1 week to go to Learning Technologies 2020, we have been reflecting on the many buzzwords our industry is currently using with fervour including VR, AR, AI and, our personal favourite, user-generated content (UGC). How legitimate is the interest? What are the real-life applications of these technologies and media?

UGC has exploded onto the scene in recent years with an insurgence of new learning technology platforms (such as the Learning Experience Platform, or LXP) hitting the market. But, that’s not the only reason it’s becoming a hot topic. As more and more organisations look to establish a more self-driven, self-paced learning environment, the thinking is that content created by your people, for your people, could well be the secret sauce in many learning strategies.

Everyone’s talking about it, but that doesn’t make it good. Or useful. So we wondered, is user-generated content something L&D should really be considering?

Challenges for L&D in 2020

The reality of the situation is that many L&D departments struggle to meet stakeholder demand for learning content. In many cases, L&D remain order-takers for the business, creating prescribed content which is dictated by other functions. Of course, content isn’t always the answer, and having the power to consult and drive solutions is an entirely different discussion. However, we know that resource-strapped L&D teams often struggle to keep up with output expectations..

So, new content often gets rushed or in the case where it needs to be outsourced, it costs a fortune, isn’t easy to edit and can outdate quickly. Not ideal.

Lack of resource is just one of several key challenges L&D are facing this year. Others highlighted in the Global Sentiment Survey 2020 and Learning Live 2020 research include:

  • Supporting and enabling digital transformation
  • Promotes better connection and engagement
  • Reaching global teams and creating a consistent yet personalised learning experience 
  • Engaging people and evolving a culture of continuous learning and coaching
  • Proving the value of learning, measuring impact and gathering actionable data.

Of course, this list isn’t finite. But what we’re seeing from many businesses is a strong desire for change and the real challenge of making it happen. For many, the charge to introduce user-generated content is a deliberate one because it has the potential; to solve a number of the challenges outlined above.

How user-generated content benefits learning

User-generated content comes in many guises: videos, articles, shares of web-based content and much more. And the reason it’s winning many L&D departments over is that it’s essentially more authentic and human – which is critical for engagement, connection and employee advocacy.

Research shows that content which is created by our peers tends to have a bigger impact on us than that which has come from the business or brand itself. In fact, 90% of consumers say that UGC influences their decision to make a purchase. It has real value when used well.

Clearly, L&D departments that leverage this new and limitless source of knowledge, experience and feedback have lots to gain. Purposeful user-generated content adds value – here are our top three benefits for user-generated content in workplace learning.

1. Creates a more personal, relevant learning experience

We know our people want more than an 80-slide e-learning module, but still, we create this content hoping it’s going to drive better results for our business. But the reality is, no matter how much jazzy animation or ‘interactive’ content you introduce, it can still feel like a cold, inaccessible learning environment.

When a colleague shares their own experience there is a real voice behind it. And by using video, mirroring a hugely popular format in our personal lives, you can support user-story creation from across the business.

2. Promotes better connection and engagement

Real, authentic human stories mean so much more to us than brand messages – so why is L&D continuing to be the sole prescriber and deliverer of learning at work? By enabling UGC creation in your business, you give your people a voice and reach they have never had before.

As a result, individuals can connect with global teams, extend their network and interact with people they’ve never met before. This fosters a feeling of belonging and can actively contribute to employee retention rates and overall learning impact.

3. Empowers and encourages reflection

Reflecting on what we’ve learned and sharing it with, or teaching, others can have a significant impact on our ability to apply knowledge and use it to respond effectively to future work situations.

This is the inherent beauty of user-generated content (particularly video). It encourages people to reflect on their experiences, what happened, what they did, what they’ve learned and what they will do next time. This not only helps to embed good practice for the storyteller but ‘teaches’ their audience. It’s a powerful double whammy.

We’ve seen customers like Bouygues, Adidas and Verizon achieve powerful results from introducing user-generated video to their people, whether new starters, seasoned sales professionals or senior leaders. How can you harness the ripple effect of user-generated content to support a range of business challenges?

How to support a continuous learning culture