Your employees DO want to generate their own content. So trust them to do it.

This week I’m indebted to the Learning Technologies Summer Forum for blog inspiration – and it came in the form of a great new piece of research on user generated content from Kallidus, presented by Tim Drewitt. The findings are important for those who are moving, as many are, towards more collaborative forms of working and learning in their organisation. It holds important clues around how best to encourage employees to generate User Generated Content (UGC) to underpin vibrant, self-sustaining communities in the workplace.

There are several interesting findings from the research, but what leapt out at me was the difference in perceptions of those who planned to make use of UGC – and those who already had. The biggest stated challenge to the creation of UGC of all who took the survey was a lack of time (54%). No surprise there – time is always the enemy in everything we do, but the stated reason perhaps masks deeper fears employers may have around trusting their employees to generate their own content at work.

So the research cleverly probed further by breaking down responses into: 1) Those with plans for UGC; 2) Those who were using it already; and 3) Those who were using it with some success. The chief concerns of those with plans (but no action to date) were that there would be “no interest” from users in generating content, while concerns over the accuracy of the content produced and the “risks” that this presented also featured strongly. Yet those who had enabled employees to generate their own content had found their fears around a lack of interest to be largely unfounded. And those who had employed UGC most successfully had quickly realised that the risks around were less of a worry than they had imagined. To me the message is that employees will be willing to generate their own content if given the right encouragement and opportunity – and while content of course needs to be moderated, they can largely be trusted to do so responsibly.

The type of UGC seen as most successful by early adopters, relates largely to those demonstrating expertise or technical skills around a product or service, perhaps ahead of the “views from the top” from the organisation’s leaders. Our own research shows that the impact of genuine enthusiasm for user generated content from senior management cannot be overstated for kindling the fire of participation – and yet it is the widespread production and sharing of content from all over that fans the flames of a vibrant workplace community.

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