Social Learning: The Newest Evolution of Learning [#e2conf]

Keith Myerson (Director, Learning & Development, Neiman Marcus Group Services) discussed how social learning (i.e., “sLearning”) will change the way L&D professionals see themselves, promote learning in their organizations and prevent brain drain from the “impending war for talent.” He may be contacted at or on Twitter @KeithMyerson.

[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2012 in Boston. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • What’s Social Learning? sLearning isn’t just another form of electronic learning (eLearning) or mobile learning (mLearning). It harnesses the power of social technology to help employees find the information and training they need at the moment of need by connecting with their colleagues. At Neiman Marcus they have deployed a social platform that allows employees to share learning, particularly through focused discussion threads.
  • Social Tools Don’t Meet Every Training Need. L&D professionals need to think creatively and dispassionately about appropriate uses of social technology. While a Q&A might be well suited to a social platform, training on improved customer service that involves observing tone and body language is better suited to face to face sessions.
  • Tie sLearning Initiative to Business Metrics. It can be a challenge to establish ROI on social technology projects, so plan early to collect meaningful data. In the case of Neiman Marcus, they were able to establish that their sLearning initiative led to demonstrable (and quantifiable) improvements in customer satisfaction. Given that each one percent increase in customer satisfaction results in a specific dollar amount in improved revenues, they could connect sLearning efforts to better financial results. This is a great outcome for an Enterprise 2.0 project. It is also very different from the traditional approach of providing a training session and then pretending to measure impact through “smile sheets” (i.e., questionnaires that request trainee views on the session) that don’t typically connect to business performance.
  • The Impending Talent War. For years, people had been predicting an enormous brain drain when the Baby Boomers retire from the work force. In Keith Myerson’s view, most organizations have dodged a bullet since the economic downturn has forced many Boomers to remain employed. Similarly, some younger high-performing individuals have elected to stay put with their current employers until the economy improves. This means that once economic good times return, organizations should expect a mass exodus of Boomers and younger high-performers. This will result in a brain drain and the “impending war for talent.” Until that happens, however, organizations have an opportunity to foster knowledge transfer and hone their succession planning. Social technology and sLearning can help with this.
  • What Does sLearning Mean for Knowledge Management? The Neiman Marcus sLearning initiative has created a dynamic collection of current know-how that is quite different from the static intranet or portal collections. In fact, users are driving change by asking that their content be moved from the intranet/portal to the sLearning platform. [The implications of this for traditional knowledge management should not be ignored. Clearly L&D and KM professionals should be cooperating to ensure that an organization’s knowledge base is as current and complete as possible. Creating yet another disconnected silo of information is not helpful for the individual employee or for the organization as a whole.]

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