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  • Writer's pictureNicole Papaioannou Lugara

2 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Apply Social Learning to Your Training

Updated: Jul 2

If you're intending to implement social learning into your training, there are two questions you absolutely need to be asking throughout the entirety of the creation process. Forget to answer these questions, and you're setting your program up for failure.

1. What's the purpose?

Purpose is the big picture. It should be at the center of every decision you make when ideating, designing, delivering, and evaluating training. It is your north star.

Want to know if you go learning community or vILT-- what's your purpose?

Want to know if you use a branded experience or something entirely divergent-- what's your purpose?

Want to know if you should include a video curated from the internet-- what's your purpose?

Your purpose can help you answer all of those questions.

When it comes to social learning at scale, "What's the purpose?" is a two-layer question.

Layer 1: Training Experience

You need to identify the purpose of the entire training experience-- why are you asking people to complete this training, really?

If you can't answer this, you probably shouldn't be rolling out this training. You can assume your people will feel the purposelessness and disengage.

At Your Instructional Designer, we leverage transformation statements to help us understand purpose. Here's an example:

Purpose Defined with a Typical Reason for Training / Vague Outcome

Purpose Defined as a Transformation Statement

Sales team members will familiarize themselves with the new product line.

Sales team members will go from farmer-style sales professionals who lack confidence in their product knowledge to hunter-style sales professionals who actively seek opportunities to create deals that meet the clients needs with customized offerings, increasing revenue generation by 10%.

Layer 2: Purpose of the Social Space

You need to identify the purpose of the social space you create, whether that's a community or just a moment for connection.

I'll add to that the purpose can't just be "training."

Let's look at an online community as an example. The purpose might be:

a place for the national sales network to collaboratively ideate creative solutions for winning over challenging prospects.

When you know what your purposes is-- for the training and the social learning-- you can make decisions to support that within your design and implementation plan.

Before we move on to question 2, let me also say that purpose shouldn't always be a top-down decision. After a thorough root cause analysis, purpose often bubbles up organically.

2. What's their currency?

At Your Instructional Designer, we use the term currency to define what a person is willing to trade their time and energy for.

For example, I'm a bit of a people-person. If you tell me I get to connect with new people or, even better, be helpful to other people, I'm more likely to be invested in. If you tell me, whatever I'm about to experience will help me make more money-- cool, I'm a little interested, but maybe not enough to engage deeply. Sure, I like money, but it's not the thing that gets me excited.

Identifying your audience's currency helps you be more targeted and intentional as you design opportunities for connection-making.

If we look back at the example above of what motivates me, then you would instantly know that a conversation-starter asking, "How might you generate more revenue?" would be far less effective than one than asks me, "How might you leverage our product to make a positive impact?" It gets to the same end game, but only one is likely to get me to participate in sharing and reflection when I'm busy with other things.

It's not just WIIFM

As an instructional designer, I learned early on to address the learner's perspective by asking "What's in it for me?" And I like that question, but it's never been enough to just know what a person might gain from training.

Without answering "What's their currency?", you can't meaningfully address "What's in it for me?" Really, what you'll be answer is "What does the company want me to do with the information?" Again, for me, generating more revenue, which might lead to more take-home pay, is nice, but it's the company's motivation-- not mine.

Currency is important because it makes people more likely to lean into and be excited about sharing and socializing.

Audience Analysis

Getting this nuanced understanding of your audience is necessary for intentional social learning opportunities to work, especially at scale.

It's also one of the reasons we strongly advocate for a significant audience analysis for any high-priority, high-impact training. Learner surveys and focus groups are standard parts of our analysis process.

And if you absolutely can't speak to learners, then you need to be searching for some kind of learner representative to provide that information-- whether it's someone you contract, information from a professional association website, or blogs written about the training topic by people who reflect your audience profile.

Why & Who You Serve

Purpose gives you your why. Currency gives you your how. Once you have the answer to these two questions, you're ready to align your training and engagement strategies in ways that make both learning and connection-making meaningful.


Need a little help your needs analysis?

>> Download our free Discovery Call Question List.


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