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  • Writer's pictureMichael Simon

Is TikTok Evolving the Landscape of Employee Development?



April 2, 2024

 

By Michael Simon, Principal, BlackFin Group

 

For those unfamiliar with the social media giant that launched in 2016, TikTok allows users to create videos often set to music/sound clips and allows a number of baked in content enhancements. Learning experts will recognize this as being adjacent to the strategies used for L&D content development. In other words, adult learning very much spills outside of corporate training environments and moves across even social media platforms.  It's more than coincidence that since the explosion of social media since the mid 2000's, the corporate learning landscape has seen a seismic shift from mostly marathon level sessions of in person learning to a landscape consisting largely of relatively short virtual ILT's and asynchronous offerings, not to mention the rise of learning management systems, learning experience platforms and blended learning.

 

Getting back to TikTok: originally, TikTok allowed a maximum video length of 60 seconds, increasing that to 3 minutes in 2021. then increasing again to the current ceiling of 10 minutes in length. According to Statista, in 2023, the average video length ranged from a low of 34 seconds for tiny accounts to an average high of 50 seconds for huge accounts, respectively, despite the 10-minute ceiling. Contrast those numbers with Statista's finding that in 2018, the average length of a YouTube video was 11.7 minutes.

 

Why is that important? Because in 2022, U.S. TikTok users spent almost 54 minutes per day on the app, which means that they were digesting dozens upon dozens, if not 100 videos per day, based Statista's average video lengths.

 

That's a lot.

 

Why are these stats important to L&D departments? Because the massive popularity and influence of TikTok is positioned to move the bar, so to speak, for corporate learning, as it has some staggering statistics behind it: 150+ million user base in the United States alone, of which 75.9% are under the age of 50, with a whopping 62% being under the age of 30. While the numbers require some skepticism, it paints a picture of a massive capture rate in Gen Z, who will be the second largest, if not overall largest workforce in the history of the United States based on different projections. As Gen Z fully comes of age into the workplace, corporate learning will certainly need to evolve in order to reflect their well-established learning preferences.

 

So how can you evolve your learning strategy to incorporate TikTok's influence?

 

1. Short-Form Content:  As previously referenced, TikTok's videos average under a minute, and users are digesting large amounts of videos in the span of 20, 40 or 60 minutes. Assess the average length your departments video and e-Learning offerings with a critical eye, evaluating how that compares. If it's averaging more than 10 minutes, better yet, 5 minutes, breakout into smaller chunks, and ease the learning burden for your employees.

 

2. Engagement and Interactivity: TikTok's algorithm prioritizes content that keeps users engaged. This has led to creators devising innovative ways to present information in ways that grab attention and encourage interaction. This can include quizzes, challenges, or interactive demonstrations, enhancing the learning experience.

 

3. Focus on Creativity and Innovation: TikTok's platform is centered around creativity and innovation. As a result, learning content developers may be expected to demonstrate a high level of creativity or innovation in their work. This emphasis on creativity can influence employee development programs to incorporate activities or training that materially raise the bar for learner engagement.

 

4. Agility and Adaptability: Social media users inherently realize their platform of choice is fast-paced and rapidly evolving. Jakob's Law suggests learners will be expecting agility, if not evolution, to both learning content and its delivery. Be agile and adaptable to changes in learner preferences, technological advancements, and market trends.  Develop two-way communication with your learners that goes beyond Level 1 feedback, so they can start painting a full color picture of what, how and why they want to learn at your company.

 

5. Social Learning: The 70/20/10 model promotes social learning as a key aspect of an optimized learning strategy. A recommended practice for firms lacking any type of social learning, is to establish Communities of Practice. Alternatively, is there a system of coaching/mentoring that L&D has established? Establishing forms of peer-to-peer learning will not only leverage how employees learn socially, but it will also ease the burden on the L&D department.

 

In conclusion, TikTok is poised to reshape learning in the workplace, if it hasn't already begun doing so. Opportunity abounds for L&D departments to adjust their learning strategy and be positioned to maximize learner engagement before Gen Z fully enters the workforce.

 

Michael Simon, Principal Consultant with BlackFin Group who runs BlackFin University leadership development program. Michael is nationally recognized as a senior training and learning executive. During Michael’s decades of learning and development he has been responsible for the development and delivery of strategic training and learning programs with Ellie Mae, Accenture World-Wide, TD Bank, UBS, PennyMac, AmeriHome, and University Bank in Michigan. For more information on how we can help contact info@blackfin-group.com

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