This may sound like a silly question, but have you ever shared any knowledge from within SharePoint with one of your organizational peers? Obviously, the answer is yes. Did anyone other than your peer know you did that? The answer is less obvious, but is probably no. In order to do your work, do you seek sources of information from your organization’s SharePoint system, YouTube, Yammer or Twitter that help you do your job better? Perhaps like me, you have used a video on YouTube to quickly figure out how to use a function in an application or you have re-read a Word document from SharePoint such as a procedure. Do you think that the person who provided the video or procedure got attribution for doing so? These brief, point-of-need exchanges of information are different than more formalized and structured content, such as the material offered in a course. However they are both forms of learning.
Formalized learning systems, called Learning Management Systems, have been present since the late 1990’s and you have likely used them. LMS’s provide the ability to track utilization of courses that have been placed into the system, and people who take the courses can be rewarded for their effort. Some LMS’s even allow you to use content directly from within SharePoint. Courses within the LMS likely also meet the requirements of an information governance policy. For a variety of reasons, it does not make sense for an organization to put every piece of information worth sharing into an LMS, as the information may already exist someplace else, and it would inundate the Learning and Development organization. To expect the people who are sharing knowledge within the organization to learn how to create courses within the LMS is also unreasonable, since course creation could be outside the bounds of their primary skillset.
However, it does makes sense to think about tracking utilization and doing knowledge checks for information that might have repetitive or other value. In addition, some of this more informal exchange of information may well fit into the organization governance requirements. Examples of informal learning that might already be in place in SharePoint include policies and procedures, onboarding processes, employee manuals, and sales presentations. While these pieces of information were created outside of the Learning and Development function, they may carry similar value and weight. This valued knowledge sharing with SharePoint and the organizations Enterprise Social Network platform such as Yammer needs strategy and guidance from both the SharePoint team and L&D.
Consider again a variation of my first question: What if you had participated in a Yammer discussion with someone? This is a social learning sub-role within informal learning. Imagine if this discussion concerned an important piece of information that you had shared previously and would likely share again. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you received recognition for having shared that knowledge? Wouldn’t it also be useful if the people who continue to consume the knowledge also received credit for doing so? SharePoint add-ons are just coming to market that offer the ability to wrap a small amount of structure around an array of informal information resources for tracking and rewarding purposes. These products provide options to provide reward systems (like badging) and give the corporation visibility as to who the key knowledge creators, sharers and consumers are.
Jerry Goguen is the CEO of Intralearn Software.