By Christine Hall, freelance writer

Employee training through social media and online programs is transforming workplace development. Not only can companies develop multiple teaching tools inexpensively, but they have more flexibility in how and when to train.The Transformation Of Employee Training

“This is a timely topic and so easy to do now,” said Bill West, senior vice president of learning services for Xerox. “We call it ‘extending the blend,’ meaning blending the initial online and classroom experience with the post-training, just-in-time capabilities of mobile and social learning to provide support to the employees at all times.”

The technology powering these resources has also become inexpensive and versatile enough to create tools and applications that can be used on smartphones and tablets, he said.

To be a leader in the global marketplace, learning on the go is a priority for companies and their employees, said Sandi Edwards, a senior vice president at AMA Enterprise, a division of the American Management Association that builds corporate solutions to transform talent.

Online and mobile training also allows more individualization, helping those who might prefer learning one way more than another, she added. It also offers alternative teaching tools and methods, beneficial since classroom training makes up just 5 percent of what someone needs to know to do their job, West said.

Most people encounter new problems on the job, so companies are creating resources that employees can use when and where they need them, including giving employees mobile devices to learn about a new product or find support right away.

Social learning has provided another component, introducing discussion groups or forums that allow users to search key words and see the most popular solution as well as answers from other users, West added.

This approach fits well with a younger generation of employees who are used to going online – searching on Google or watching video tutorials on YouTube.

One of the biggest gaps for global leaders, Edwards said, is addressing employees’ desire to know more about and gain mastery of technology in training and development. “They want competency with social networking technology and tools that could be helpful to them,” she said.

Online alternatives to classroom learning also allow for more interactivity, such as submitting comments and engaging in dialogue, Edwards said.

Employees crave flexibility in when and how they learn. Companies can now better respond to them by creating tailored online learning materials.

 

This post originally appeared on Forbes.