Sarah Danzl: Complete your L&D with user-generated content

Many things have changed with the times but learning and development (L&D) has remained largely the same. That’s not to say traditional L&D is obsolete, but it is incomplete. For businesses to make smarter investments about their most valuable assets, people, they must understand what their employees want. But many are falling short. Based on recent research we carried out, people are currently giving their employers’ learning and development opportunities an overall Net Promoter Score of -25.

Diversified content can get you there

We also found that four in ten workers actively share knowledge and skills with their peers. However, our research also shows that it’s a whole lot more common for people to share existing learning resources than it is for them to create something new. And that means two things for L&D professionals:

Firstly, user-discovered and user-shared content are likely to be more powerful parts of your learning strategy than solely user-created content. Second, many L&D teams could be wasting money, resources, time and effort on the wrong solution for encouraging peer-to-peer learning.

The big deal about UGC

A few years ago, Gartner predicted that 80 of cent of L&D teams would be utilising user-generated content (UGC) by now. Which makes sense. User-generated learning can be more cost-effective, faster to produce, and more relevant than building or buying. It can also be an efficient and scalable way to spread the word about new business initiatives, products, and processes, or to make sense of new opportunities, threats, and insights.

UGC is an unofficial education content that’s created in one person’s area of expertise for others to learn from. It can take many forms, including a video, infographic, chart and even forum posts. It can be internal or external, on a company Intranet or sites like Medium and YouTube. L&D professionals must get-to-grips with the different formats’ strengths and weaknesses if they wish to use it to its full potential. Remember, user-shared content, instead of originally created content, is equally – if not more powerful. So, a lot of the work surrounding UGC will involve curating much of the content already out there.

What kind of content?

However, until now, many L&D teams have assumed that because people are happy to create content for social media and YouTube, the same applies to work. But our research discovered that other channels and forms of content are reigning supreme.

Nearly four in ten people (39 per cent) we surveyed said they had responded to questions in online messaging, collaboration, or enterprise social network tools. 37 per cent shared articles, blog posts, videos, or podcasts from the Internet last year. And 34 per cent created documents, articles, or presentations. Fewer than 10 per cent, however, live-streamed a video (8.5 per cent), shot a Snapchat or Instagram-style “selfie” video (7.5 per cent), or captured a webcast or screencast (6.1 per cent).

However, by-and-large it’s rare for workers to generate learning content. Again, amongst those that do, they focus on user-shared and user-discovered content instead of user-created. Text-based content is more common than video – even amongst video-savvy generations like Millennials and Gen-Z.

Who’s creating content?

Around 42 per cent of UGC contributors are individuals, working off their own steam. 16 per cent manage a team, 14 per cent lead a function or business unit, and 17 per cent are executives. The remaining 11 per cent identify as gig workers like consultants, contractors and freelancers.

The success of your L&D hinges on these people. Find them, engage with them and encourage them to share content with their peers. Most people would be happy (and perhaps even flattered) to contribute if given an invitation. You can also provide incentives to spur people on.

Not worth rushing

In the rush to embrace UGC, it’s easy to overlook how the workforce actually creates, shares and uses it. People want to share what they know – leading L&D teams are tapping into that drive and gaining real value from it. However, many still are misguided by untested assumptions. Before implementing any UGC programme, take a step back to understand your workforce’s inner workings. If you don’t understand how your workforce really generates learning, you could be prioritising the wrong features, or worse, wasting money on the wrong solutions entirely.

Many benefits from well-planned UGC

When done well, UGC can motivate your employees to share their knowledge, upskilling and informing the entire workforce. It frees up your team to focus on strategy and developing high-level skills. You won’t have to limit your L&D offerings to topics you have instructional design time for. Plus, it’ll keep your L&D current and up-to-date with the latest trends and thinking.

UGC can be more flexible than a formal training programme and will provide your organisation with the agility it needs to prepare for the ever-changing future. But you cannot do it alone. Tap into the expertise of everyone around you – by first understanding what they want. Find the magic formula for your firm and your L&D will stand the test of time.





Sarah has been actively involved in the learning space for 12 years, leading marketing and communications efforts in both corporate and startup capacities. She currently leads the PR, Communications and Client Advocacy teams at Degreed.

Prior to Degreed, Sarah served as the Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Xyleme, helping grow their comprehensive authoring system into the leading LCMS provider.

When she’s not developing new content, she can be found experimenting with new recipes, getting involved in a local nonprofit, or walking her two pitbulls at the base of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado.