Social Networks Enhance Employee Learning: Employers Are Embracing Informal Learning as a Valuable Training Tool and Social Networks as a Way to Support Learning Efforts

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Despite doubts about security and information quality, many companies now view social media as a good way to enhance valuable informal learning efforts, according to a new survey by the CARA Group, which specializes in custom learning for Fortune 500 organizations.

The survey, "How Informal Learning Is Transforming the Workplace," explored the acceptance of informal learning--defined as learning that takes place independently from structured instructor-led classes or course-specific work--and social media's role in supporting it.

"We have our own challenges between early adopters and self-acclaimed 'luddites' when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, in particular," says Jane Ehrenstrom, CARA senior vice president. "We wanted to see if these attitudes extended to our clients and how we might be able to help educate, clarify, and navigate this new landscape in workforce learning."

More than 80 percent of the survey sample, from CARA's database of nearly 2,000 learning leaders, felt that social media offered valuable learning opportunities for employees; 91 percent acknowledged informal learning's value in employee training. Nearly all respondents believed that informal learning supplements formal learning either very much (64 percent) or somewhat (35 percent). And most believe it should happen on company time or on demand (96 percent).

But employers also were concerned about security issues, whether or not employees were wasting time, and the legitimacy of the experts that employees are reaching out to for information.

"The survey findings reveal a tension between social media's perception as a valuable learning tool and a company's ability to govern its impact on productivity, security, and information verification," says Ehrenstrom.

To counter this, the report notes that some companies are developing their own internal social networks: 60 percent of respondents noted that their business has created internal online communities. …

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