3 ways to measure the ROI of your social learning platform

Kayleigh Kahlefeldt|October 12, 2020

A collective appetite for learning is emerging as a silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis and businesses stand to benefit.

Learning at digital speed

Workplace learning is shifting from what to how people learn, which is shining a light on social learning platforms. Social learning is collaborative learning at digital speed. There are several ways in which HR leaders can gain fast ROI from interactive learning. But first, why would they want to?

Janison social learning consultant Jennifer Blackmore points to the most obvious reason: keeping remote teams connected. The global pandemic has us navigating new waters and social learning enables teams to stay connected virtually, as well as preparing them for new ways of working.

“When you’re upskilling a remote workforce for the new normal you’re forced to rethink learning,” says Jennifer. “The advantages of social learning, where people not only further their personal development but contribute to each other’s, have always been there. It’s just that now they’re front and centre.”

And she would know, having led the implementation of a landmark social learning platform during her previous 20-plus year career working for a well-known financial organisation.

The leading bank successfully deployed a social learning culture across a workforce of 13,000+ employees using Janison Academy’s social learning platform, which enabled:

  • Content design teams to build specific and targeted learning content, supporting the redesigning of face-to-face curricula as digital
  • Subject matter experts (SMEs) to create and curate content specifically within their area of expertise and deploy to a broader audience
  • Learners to create and curate their own learning when they need it, and consume learning through their channel of choice

The last two points, which Janison calls Add & Share, are truly powerful when it comes to driving a lifelong culture of social learning and realising faster returns.

Harnessing collective knowledge

Add & Share, also known as distributed authorship or user-generated content, is a core function of social media networks such as Facebook, which encourage peer sharing. Reactions to and conversations around shares make social media irresistible.

The previously mentioned leading bank chose to stay true to the ideology of social media by doing away with approvals for employee contributed content. Risky? In fact, it has proven quite the opposite. The trust the organisation places in its people compels them to be mindful about content selection. Three monthly audits pick up any outliers.

So – how do you demonstrate ROI in social learning?

There’s no doubt companies of all sizes and in all industries are redefining the future of work when it comes to social learning. Even so, measuring the success of something as intangible as learning presents a challenge.

However, there are some clear ROI indicators for a successful transition from a traditional learning management system (LMS) to a social learning platform.

1. Pace

Social learning organisations learn faster. The ability to search and filter content and receive AI-informed, personalised recommendations prevents learners from being overwhelmed by content choices.

“It helps to make sure you have a robust taxonomy in place to return the right results,” advises Jennifer. “Spending time on your content tags takes learning completion to a new level.”

Gamification in leaderboards is another great accelerator; there’s nothing quite like a bit of healthy competition to get people fired up about reaching their goals. L&D teams typically see significantly more people completing courses faster when they introduce gamification into the learning mix.

How does accelerated learning translate into ROI?

Organisations that increase both learning speed and their speed of delivering new learning programs are responsive to market changes, have a smarter workforce and retain a competitive edge.

2. Cost

Cost of learning and operational costs are a primary concern for HR teams. The ROI of social learning platforms in relation to cost savings include:

  • Full-time equivalency roles (FTEs) – cost of deploying and supporting learning materials
  • Content production – cost of generating content on the platform
  • Hard costs – venues, AV, catering, course printouts etc.
  • Hiring – low cost of employee retention, through greater employee engagement and upskilling, versus the high cost of employee turnover
  • Productivity – reduced absenteeism and a lower requirement for training supervision.

FTE reduction is a great indicator of ROI. I’ve yet to discover a HR department not facing difficult choices because of stretched resources. The promise of headcount savings is attractive.

The leading bank zeroed in on FTE efficiency, asking itself; ‘How many people do we need to support the content design and delivery lifecycle on our social learning platform?’ It was able to minimise the FTE resources responsible for designing, deploying, facilitating and supporting social learning – reallocating valuable headcount savings into new areas.

Add in operational cost reductions from reduced travel, real estate, catering and AV, and the cost of learning becomes exponentially lower than in a typical learning environment.

Then there’s the cost of the content itself. Social learning promotes content sources outside of the organisation’s “content bubble”. A broader variety includes purpose-designed, SME-contributed, user-sourced content, as well as premium third-party content sources such as the Go1 Content Hub integrated into the Janison platform. This reduces the burden on companies to produce everything themselves. And, it boosts results.

Hiring is another not-to-be-forgotten cost. Hiring costs and retention rates can provide compelling justification for an investment in social learning tools. Studies suggest that one in seven Australian employees feel disengaged. Disengaged employees cost companies on average 34 per cent of their salaries. Re-hiring for roles lost to disengagement is costing Australian businesses millions!

People become disengaged when their career progression expectations aren’t met. A social learning system addresses this head-on by creating a culture of learning that inspires people to reach outside their roles. And, stay with the organisation longer.

Jennifer adds: “Imagine being able to rapidly upskill and redeploy people as part of an organisational restructure instead of losing their accumulated expertise, or incurring redundancy costs.”

3. Engagement

Employee engagement is hands down the best indicator of social learning success. But, is it possible to calculate ROI in terms of people’s willingness to engage with learning materials?

Yes, it is. Dashboards are one of the most-used and best loved features of a social learning platform. And it’s easy to see why. They connect HR leaders with the workforce and reveal behaviours that help them to steer change management in the right direction.

It pays to keep an eye on the times of day when people are accessing the platform. If your content is hitting the mark you’ll likely see rising access rates outside of core working hours.

Switching on self-assessment tools to empower people to discover their own learning gaps and make personal learning choices, is also a big driver of engagement.

Engagement measures include:

  • Unique learners accessing the site
  • Return users
  • Formal versus non-formal learning content engagement
  • Percentage of user-contributed content
  • Instances of learning being peer recommended, shared and completed

Top tips for making the leap to social learning

Demonstrating impact in LMS scenarios is always challenging. Being prepared to talk about the ROI of social learning can help. So too can these tips from Jennifer on getting started:

  • Analyse data from the start, but don’t rely on data alone. Comments provide equally important insight into people’s’ learning experience
  • Ensure that your social learning platform is mobile-responsive because people increasingly learn on a variety of devices
  • Get executive support. Advocacy from the top eases change management and drives adoption
  • First impressions matter. Ensure that you have a critical mass of valuable content to go live with your new learning environment. If people love it, they’ll use it.

See how irresistible social learning is for your team. Contact us today to request a demo.


About the Author

Kayleigh Kahlefeldt

Founder, Cornerstone Content

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