10 Tips to Start Your Learning Community of Practice

A learning community of practice is a great way to add energy to your training program. Learn 10 tips from Dan Jones, Zurich Insurance, to start one.

Published on 25 October, 2016 | Last modified on 14 May, 2024
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A learning community of practice is a great way to modernize your training program: it encourages informal learning, it boosts learner participation by giving them a forum following your course, and it gives you a place to begin curating content in addition to designing content.

That’s why we invited Daniel Jones from Zurich Insurance to share his expertise with our community of Mimiacs. Not only does Dan have a career’s worth of experience in training, but he has also started two learning communities of practice at Zurich, each with over 1900 members. You can listen to the full webinar here (and download an ebook Dan created as a takeaway).

For the executive summary, here are 10 tips we picked up by listening to the webinar:

A Learning Community Should Be Voluntary

Adults don’t like being told what to do, so the quickest way to lose participation is to tell people they have to participate. Rather than make your learning community mandatory, instead get the word out about the community, hold interesting events, and engage with your learners so that they want to be there.

Publish a Collaboration Website

One way to engage with your learners is to create a dedicated website for the community. Make it clear how to join, host resources, and encourage discussions all on one central site so there is a virtual home for your community.

Use Resources Already Available to You

You may be thinking that creating a website is too complicated and expensive for your team. Dan encourages everyone to use the resources they already have one hand, such as corporate intranet or internal sharing tools. Bottom line: you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Use Free Resources

This doesn’t have to be another line-item on your budget request, either. Dan has seen groups successfully leverage free tool such as Facebook or LinkedIn groups in order to get their learning communities of practice off the ground.

Embrace Face-to-Face Events

While most people have embraced the virtual world, hosting face-to-face events still breeds a greater sense of community. Dan suggests everything from pizza parties to field trips to custom conferences to keep your community members engaged.

Keep to a Learning Community Schedule

No matter what activities you host, it’s important to keep them on a regular schedule. For webinars, Dan recommends at least once every two months because quarterly won’t be frequent enough to give you momentum. He also suggests using a newsletter once a month to share with members the content they might have missed.

Curate Content for Your Learners

If you’ve attended any conferences in the last year, you’ve heard about the latest trend: L&D is changing from designing content to curating it. In fact, it was one of the top predictions from our State of L&D 2016 respondents. Dan recommends using your community website and newsletter to curate content for your learners so that they see you as a resource.

Consider Special Interest Groups 

For anyone in large organizations, it may be wise to split your community into multiple special interest groups so that each community can focus on developing skills unique to them. Be sure to delegate, though, as community management is a full-time job and you can easily over-commit yourself with too many special interest groups.

Reach Out to Individuals

Dan recommends highlighting individual members’ expertise by asking them to speak on webinars, write blog posts, or chair conferences. This will not only increase their engagement with the group but also gives you a break from always providing content. But putting out a blanket call for speakers won’t work: he says you have to reach out to them individually to ensure they do it.

Expect 5-10% Participation

Just like most internet ventures, most people are “lurkers”. In Dan’s experience, only 5-10% of your community will regularly, actively engage. Another cohort will engage more selectively, and some people will hardly ever take part. That’s good information to know for setting KPI.

Everyone on the webinar walked away with some great information and tools so that they could start or grow their learning communities. Are you a community manager? If so, what are your tips?

Mimeo Webinar

Catch up on How to Start, Grow, and Manage a Learning Community of Practice now! You’ll receive a full recording of the webinar as well as Dan’s ebook made specially for webinar viewers.

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