Social Media In Learning And Development: Preparing For The Next Generation Workforce

Social Media In Learning And Development: Preparing For The Next Generation Workforce
Summary: There is a push towards the integration of technology in training environments to enhance the learning experience, but no set limit, no defined structure, no curated approach that tells us how far we can go, or how creative we can get when leveraging technology for training. The tech savvy, next generation workforce, is a provoking force whose learning habits, characteristics, styles, and expectations can guide innovation in corporate training.

Tapping Into The Power Of Social Media In Learning And Development

Millennials are growing up using technology and social media applications at home and at school, in their free time and during training time, on planes and in their cars. Their habits, expectations, and styles are much different from those of previous generations.

Social Media – L&D’s Untapped Resource
Discover the role of social media in Learning and Development, why you should let them guide you to bridge the gap with Millennials, what social media you should apply to L&D, and how they can help you transform it.

As Millennials join the workforce, the concept of training will change because Millennials are not the traditional learner. Instead of reacting to the new demands of Millennials as they enter the workforce, what if we responded by anticipating the new learning styles that will soon rule the L&D community?

Who Are Millennials?

According to Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”

Before expecting Millennials to go through traditional corporate training and come out effective contributors in the workplace, we might benefit from understanding their characteristics, learning styles, and preferred learning environment.

  • Millennials are experiential and exploratory learners
  • Millennials are comfortable collaborating with peers and working in teams
  • Millennials use technology and social media to facilitate their experiences
  • Millennials are multimedia literate
  • Millennials favor social, interactive, and participatory learning environments
  • Millennials are more comfortable in image-rich environments than with text
  • Millennials are expert multi-taskers
  • Millennials seek immediate feedback

Social media has promoted a learning environment where new learning styles are being developed. The characteristics of Millennials and their ideas of a comfortable learning environment should be used to enhance and innovate the structure of corporate training.

Traditional Training Approaches That Could Use A Millennial Twist

Let’s take a deeper dive into the current landscape of L&D to identify approaches in traditional training that could align better with the characteristics, learning styles and preferred learning environment of Millennials.

Traditional Approach #1: Pre-work

Independent, text-based pre-work assignments limit learners who favor the collaborative, exploratory learning approaches characteristic of Millennials. Pre-work that is limited to one type of content delivery presents an opportunity for a blended learning approach that incorporates the image-rich, interactive content available through social media.

Traditional Approach #2: Objectives

Course objectives have a pre-defined written structure that tells learners what they will be able to do and how they will do it. Millennials are accustomed to having a great deal of autonomy over their content and their freedom to pick and choose content based on relevance is a strong motivator for L&D to innovate the traditional approach to course objectives to align better with Millennials’ expectations.

Traditional Approach #3: Group Discussions

The traditional approach to holding group discussions involves sharing ideas primarily through verbal communication. Group discussions present an opportunity to incorporate a variety of social and multimedia channels where discussions involve creating, sharing and exchanging information, ideas pictures and videos through virtual networks – a current millennial practice.

These traditional approaches work for now and may continue to work in the future, but we have an opportunity to enhance these approaches by integrating technology and social media channels into the corporate learning environment.

Let Technology And Social Media Drive Innovation

Millennials are already leveraging social media on their devices as a social learning mechanism by consulting peers, friends, and experts to gain information.

Social learning is being put into practice every nanosecond! It is taking place through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and online group discussion boards. Social media has become so pervasive in the lives of Millennials that it would be hard not to include social media in the instructional strategies used in L&D.

Millennials always have some sort of device at their disposal whether it is a tablet, a laptop, or a smartphone.

According to the U.S. Chamber Foundation, 80% of Millennials sleep with their cell phone next to the bed, 75% create a profile on a social networking site, and 20% post a video of themselves online.

These three statistics only hint at the unique personality that Millennials are bringing into the workforce.

Social media applications and their capabilities are a largely untapped L&D resource. If a social media is leveraged by Millennials for networking, self-expression, news, business, and much more, why not for organizational learning activities?

Bridging L&D And Millennial Learning Needs With Social Media

Millennials spend 33% of their waking hours consuming information on social media, yet only 4.2% of corporate training can be accessed there.

It’s time to close this gap.

Here are the top social media applications based on number of users:

  • Facebook at 1 billion users
  • Facebook Messenger at 700 million users
  • LinkedIn – 414 million users
  • Twitter at 320 million users
  • Tumblr – over 250 million blogs
  • Vine at 200 million active users
  • Snapchat at 100 million users
  • Periscope at over 10 million users

How Can We Use These Social Media Applications to Transform L&D?

1. Facebook Messenger

  • Feature to leverage in training: Group messaging
  • Training application: Increase engagement by setting up a group on Facebook for participants taking a specific course and allow live chats through Facebook Messenger about specific training points before, during and after the training.

2. Facebook And LinkedIn

  • Feature to leverage in training: Facebook or LinkedIn Group, discussion board
  • Training application: Increase engagement by creating a LinkedIn or Facebook group to facilitate networking before and after the training. Encourage learners to share their ideas on a given topic.

3. Tumblr

  • Feature to leverage in training: Post text, photos, videos, links and follow blogs of others
  • Training application: Increase engagement by encouraging learners to share their ideas through posts, photos videos and links on a particular training topic

4. Vine

  • Feature to leverage in training: Create and edit six-second videos and find, follow, and interact with other users.
  • Training application: Increase engagement by having learners role play a process or demonstrate a concept through a Vine video

5. Periscope

  • Feature to leverage in training: Live video broadcasts
  • Training application: Build an awareness of training and its impact through live broadcasts of conversations between learners talking about a topic from the training, their plan to use their training in the workplace, or how their training has already impacted their work.

6. Snapchat

  • Feature to leverage in training: 10-second disappearing photo or video
  • Training application: Increase engagement and start building relationships before the training by having learners share a visual status of themselves (guidelines recommended). This allows the facilitator and learners to start building relationships even before they reach the classroom.

7. Twitter

  • Feature to leverage in training: Hashtags, send and receive updates from Twitter users
  • Training application: Increase engagement by allowing learners to tweet about a specific concept in training using a unique #hashtag identifier or tweet their “takeaway” point in the classroom. This can also be a way to poll your audience and gain feedback. People will learn from each other’s posts and can refer back to it later after the training.

And that’s not all! There are many other apps that can be leveraged to enhance learning solutions.

Additional applications to facilitate L&D:

  • OneNote
  • Evernote
  • Kindle App
  • Skill Pill
  • iTunes U
  • Yik Yak


Corporate training approaches can benefit from an understanding of the next generation workforce. Millennials are more comfortable in image-rich environments where content is on-demand, brief and interactive and are accustomed to creating, sharing, and exchanging information, ideas, pictures and videos through a variety of social media channels.

If social media is leveraged by Millennials for networking, self-expression, news, business and much more, why not for organizational learning activities? Social media is a largely untapped L&D resource. Using social media applications in training will not only enhance the learning experience, but bring innovation to traditional corporate training approaches.


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