Growth of social learning stunted by lack of knowledge in UK business

New Brightwave research confirms business leaders and data security concerns are key barriers to social learning with many UK workers lacking social media access, despite support and high usage amongst HR professionals

New research* out today from work-place e-learning specialists Brightwave concludes that social networks and social learning are not being maximised or encouraged because business decision makers don’t understand their value (41%). This is despite nearly half (43%) of HR and L&D professionals using social networks, such as LinkedIn, to learn and gather knowledge.

Social learning is also unlikely to make much impact in the majority of large UK organisations in the near future, as almost two thirds (63%) of those surveyed confirmed they do NOT plan to facilitate social learning in the next 18 months.

Furthermore, the majority of UK workers in large organisations (7 out of 10) don’t have any access to leading social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. A secure company Intranet is the only tool which is commonly and actively encouraged for informal learning – used by 72.5% of those polled by Brightwave.

Lars Hyland, director of learning services at Brightwave said: “UK businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity to cost-effectively build knowledge and understanding, as well as engagement, across large volumes of employees in different locations. Business leaders must be informed about the real opportunities in applying social networks to business, otherwise they risk alienating their highly networked current and future talent in today’s global workforce.”

Data security is the key reason why most businesses (8 out of 10 of those surveyed) do not actively encourage participation in social networks. Wasted time (61%) and concerns over company IT infrastructure (48%) were also cited as key reasons for not using social media for learning.

Virginia Barder, director of projects at Brightwave picks up the issue of data security: “Organisations should certainly be concerned about data security as more people than ever can theoretically access personal and confidential information online. Most organisations should have processes in place to manage this. Any worries can be addressed by developing and communicating an effective information security policy. In fact, opening up access to such networks can benefit organisations hugely as it enables a freer flow of knowledge and access to information for people to do their jobs better.”

Barder concludes: “Common sense, context, communications training and Moderation should be enough to enable safe and effective social learning.”

* Brightwave survey polled e-learning and training specialists within large UK organisations (5000 plus employees) in July 2009.





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