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Harnessing Social Media for Leadership Development - Part 1

By Aviel Selkovits

Social media has become a wonderful resource for recruiters both to source candidates, and to help build an employment brand. In this two-part series, we'll discuss how to use social media as part of your leadership development initiatives. In this first post, we'll look into how social media is currently being used in leadership development and the benefits that social media offers. In Part 2, we'll explore the barriers to success and how to set your leaders up for success. 

Recently, we surveyed 181 HR executives to learn more about how they were using social media for leadership development. We asked why and how organizations are using social media, what internal processes they had worked through to ensure these new tools would deliver a return on training investment, and whether their leaders saw value in taking time to engage with the new technologies and activities. So what is the state of social media and leadership development?

Is Anyone Even Using This Stuff?

Yes and no. The survey revealed that about one-half of responding organizations are not yet using social media as part of their leadership development initiatives. And those who are utilizing tools aren’t using them in a blended manner. This is not surprising at all–while many social tools have been around for some time, their value is still unproven when it comes to leadership development. And there aren’t really a set of best practices around how to effectively use these tools in a way that delivers value.

What social media tools are you using for leadership development?
However, there are a number of survey respondents who have been successfully incorporating social tools for other kinds of development such as knowledge transfer, or to connect internal communities of practice. These can also be housed on many internal systems and often do not require the purchase of any external technologies (Microsoft SharePoint has the ability to create blogs, wikis, and discussion forums, for example.) Blogs and internal streams are also tools that have been growing in popularity. Again, with the low- or no-cost technologies it is easy to get access to these tools. While these tools have proven to add value in the world of knowledge management, their effectiveness is still largely unproven when it comes to leadership development initiatives.

Why Should We Even Consider These Tools?

There are a number of benefits that these technologies present in terms of driving more sustainable leadership development. They help connect geographically dispersed learners, reconnect learners for application sessions after formal, in-person learning events, and facilitate learners reaching out to one another to share leadership successes and struggles. The chart below shows the division of how organizations are currently using these tools.

What is the primary reason you are using social media for leadership development?
In fact, most organizations are using social media to drive continuous learning in one form or another (connecting in between events, or driving a culture of continuous learning). A smaller portion of respondents are using it to match generational learning styles–and here is an area of caution. While younger generations (Gen Y especially) have “grown up” with these tools, and may have a level of savvy that others might not, that does not mean they understand the value that social media technologies have for their professional development. In fact, in DDI’s special report Generation Next: Ready to Step Up, or Step Out?, we found that Gen Yers felt that coaching (either with a manager, or other internal or external coach) was the most effective form of development.

Aviel Selkovits is a former senior marketing consultant.

Posted: 26 Mar, 2013,
Talk to an Expert: Harnessing Social Media for Leadership Development - Part 1
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