The concept of the Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is gaining a lot of interest amongst the HR community at the moment. If you haven’t come across the term before, a PLN basically does what it says on the tin: it is all about creating a unique network of people and sources from which you can learn and grow as a professional.
Continuing professional development is a key responsibility in many professions, to ensure that practitioners keep up to date with new ways of thinking, developments in the field and external influences that might come to bear on their areas of work. How to improve your own practice is also vital for both personal and career development. But it is even more essential for those of us working in a fast-moving profession that is constantly evolving like HR and L&D are. The worlds of work and technology are changing around us – and we must meet this challenge head on.
Once upon a time my PLN basically consisted of reading the HR press and attending the occasional employment law update – when I had the time. Now, my PLN is based around Twitter, where you can find me as @TimScottHR. I engage across many social media platforms, but joining Twitter in particular had a transformational effect on me, my approach to HR and my career. It works incredibly well for me and has become a daily part of my routine that I’d feel lost without. Of course Personal Learning Networks take many forms, they aren’t just about social media. But social media has opened up new ways of learning for professionals and organisations alike.
So my first piece of advice to any HR professional who wants to develop their own personal learning network is to get on Twitter! There is a warm and welcoming HR community on Twitter who are actively discussing ideas and sharing the work that they are doing via blogs, tweets and podcasts. The beauty of a Twitter-based PLN is that it renders geography and timescales irrelevant. You have access to the work and ideas of thought leaders across the profession, on the device in your pocket, whenever you need it. You can dip in and out whenever works for you. It can help bring the outside in. Not only does the HR practitioner themselves improve but so does their organisation in turn, benefiting from this enhanced knowledge and experience.
In order to develop my own learning I read blogs, listen to podcasts and share my ideas and practice too, for the benefit of others. Social media allows you both to be a resource and to use others’ resources. But it is about finding what works for you.
If you are not already a big user of social media, or aren’t too sure how to make the most of what you are doing to build a PLN, I have three pieces of advice. First of all: dive in. Just go for it and get involved in the conversation. People already doing this stuff genuinely welcome new voices bringing fresh approaches and different experience. Secondly: be you. Just be yourself on social media, like you would in a real life, face to face networking situation. Actually, the same unspoken rules largely apply: four example, don’t be tempted to go straight into “sales mode” – remember it’s a conversation! And finally, share stuff. As well as helping you build connections, sharing stuff makes you a useful resource for someone else’s PLN and could help to promote your organisation’s work too.
If you want to read more about social media and HR, or learn more about what it can do for you and your organisation then you can download the book I co-wrote with fellow HR professional Gemma Dale on the subject from Amazon here or contact me via the website for training on all things social media!