Using Social Media as a Training Resource

While everyone appreciates the positive impact and value that training has on the successful growth and development of both employees and organizations, there continues to be a struggle in terms of time and cost to translate this knowledge into an efficient and practical reality.

Most small businesses are simply not in the position to hire professional trainers who will stand in front of a group of employees and provide a day-long training session, regardless of the topic. And if employers do opt to take this route, seldom do they see their investment translate into increased employee engagement or performance ― and, more importantly, profits.

However, new and reasonable alternatives to formal, lengthy training can be found within the world of social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube – just to name a few. Traditional training can sometimes be dull. But because the tourism industry – and by extension its employers –focuses on fun and excitement, shouldn’t that experience be reflected in innovative training methods as well?

Including social media in your employee training does not need to be complicated or expensive, and it can take a variety of forms. For example, including a short video or web page that takes an employee mere minutes to watch or read. Given the young demographic that comprises the majority of positions in any tourism-focused business, the tools and knowledge required for this type of training are already well in place, with smart phones, tablets and laptops common and used with a passion.

Some obvious benefits to using social media as a training resource would be:

  • The credibility of training presented by colleagues or senior managers of your own organization as opposed to an external training expert;
  • Providing fewer constraints on employees in relation to time and space required; training can be done in a flexible time frame, usually in a location of choice;
  • Training time is usually quite short and can quickly meet changing needs; information can be communicated to employees quickly and as required;
  • Follow-up can happen immediately after training (i.e. watch a short video, start working and implement what was learned);
  • Rating and commenting tools on the majority of social media sites ensure timely responses to questions and increase immediate, meaningful interaction between employees; users and trainers can rate themselves and each other in real time;
  • It promotes a shared understanding among employees based on actual training and ongoing communication;
  • It is virtually cost-free.

So, where to start? One obvious and simple choice is to launch your social media workplace training with YouTube. Through YouTube, your staff and/or managers can develop a variety of training videos, including customer service (e.g. how to handle guest complaints), introduction of products (a new cocktail), detailed duties (guest check-ins) and even cultural pieces that could be included as part of your new employee orientation.

Just ensure that the training provided is relevant to what your employees actually do in the course of their jobs and/or your unique business. Training through any medium, developed simply for its own sake, is of no value to anyone. Alternatively, the variety and range of what can be produced is only limited by you and your employees’ own imagination and initiative.

Encouraging social media as a training source does not translate into a social media “free-for-all.” Yes, it is important that employers implement controls that relate to the use of social media in general, but don’t let the fear of things “spinning out of control” stop you from trying social media as an effective and fun training tool. Most often, the connectivity of social media does lend itself to being self-regulating by employees. Constant and real-time feedback normally allows for necessary changes to take place, if required, and ultimately employees do not want to see their company represented badly in front of the general public. That said, make sure that you have a solid and communicated policy in place outlining the appropriate use of social media in your workplace. This will set the stage for responsible use in all areas, including training.

Embrace social media as a partner in training, and you might be amazed and pleasantly surprised at the results. The tools and the content experts needed are right at hand – namely, your employees. Using social media as part of your training can be an invaluable resource if done properly and can provide a successful alternative or support to traditional training, which may result in a large return on a small investment of time and money. So why not get started today?