Measurement & ROI for Social & Network Learning

These are my notes from the Learn Trends: Networked and Social Learning online mini-conference. This isn’t my usual comprehensive live blogging, just snippets of things that caught my interest. I wanted to actually participate in the chat and watch Twitter too, and I couldn’t juggle all of it at the same time. This is post 2 of 3.

Measurement & ROI for Social & Network Learning

Will Thalheimer & Tony Karrer

How are you measuring social learning? Most popular answers: Nothing and Asking Around

Reasons to measure learning:

  • Prove benefits
  • Support learning
  • Improve design

Traditionally, we focus only on the training intervention & formal learning. Hopefully that leads to OTJ performance, then individual fulfillment and organizational results.

Performance Triggers: after the formal learning–remember, prompt (perf support, job aids), OTJ learning. Social & network learning really falls into the OTJ learning, not formal.

In chat, vivien disagreed: “I don’t agree that social learning is always downstream of training intervention”

I think it could be both–the chart does look very linear, which is the traditional model. But maybe we can’t just shoehorn social learning into one part of the chart. Of course, it’s shown as part of the OTJ performance, which really should be ongoing.

PFL: Preparation for Future Learning–setting up people to be able to learn more effectively. This can be the social network

Also need to think about opportunity cost–what are you giving up to spend time on social media? Is that something we should measure too?

Ask yourself “Why am I measuring?”

  • Show it will be worth the investment
  • Compare to other alternatives (formal/informal learning)
  • Figure out what components are particularly beneficial or harmful
  • Figure out levels/intensity of use
  • Figure out what kind of users are benefited/harmed the most
  • Determine how much is time-efficient
  • Determine what actually causes results
  • Determine how much info is accurate/valid, communicated well

When the poll question was I asked, I said we were doing nothing, but we actually did tally up how many comments we received from how many different people on our team blog. That is a measure of social learning within our company.

What about return on expectations? Did this meet what you expected it to meet? An interesting idea

When people are afraid, have to show that the benefit outweighs any harm.

Research may be little pilot studies, case studies–not always full scale research

Look for the powerful stories about how work has changed–success cases


Tom Stone: Or a common I hear about our wikis… “I feel enabled to actually create more valuable documentation than I did in the past. I actually record valuable informal conversations in the wiki, before the value of those just were lost over time.”

Hard/soft benefits

Examples (from The Social Enterprise Blog):

  • Caterpillar 3000 communities of practice = $75 million saved as of 5 years ago
  • Ace–500% ROI in 6 months in increased sales from connecting dealers to share expertise

Look for areas of the business that have a critical need, preferably a need distributed across the organization

Don’t just ask people for their perceptions–they won’t always be accurate

Tom Stone: One big advantage to getting the informal/social learning to be technology mediated is that it is then captured, searchable, and has much greater reach beyond the two people talking in the hallway.

Tom Stone: It also becomes *visible* to management — a big selling point.

Tom Stone: If 70-85% of learning in an org today is informal learning, wouldn’t it be nice for management / leadership to be able to witness some/much (not all) of that?

Tom Stone: Without the tech, they will see virtually none of it. It is opaque.

What is the ROI of email? Some technology is powerful enough that it will be used even if there isn’t a clear ROI.

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