This is why learning in a sharing economy is a challenge for HR departments


Embracing collaborative learning means breaking the mould of much standard in-house training

The sharing economy has changed everything. No longer do Londoners have to wait in the rain to hail on overpriced cab. They just press the screen on an app, and it appears, taking them to where they want to go at half the price. Fancy a road trip? Get in your car and go. You can find places to stay all over the world on Airbnb, often at just a few hours’ notice.

Learning is no different. The sharing economy has changed that too. Where we were once taught knowledge by a teacher, we now share it. Tomorrow’s learning is collaborative and multilateral. The trouble is HR departments haven’t caught up with the new settlement. Essentially, many HR departments’ training function is stuck in a lecture hall. HR teams are generally more focused on formal training, for a number of reasons. For example, historically, some team members may have come from the administrative area of payrolls and procedures, creating a culture; emphasis may have been placed on ‘hard’ skills and knowledge rather than on soft skills; the training industry takes formal education as the model to follow and tries to emulate the structure of courses; consultants push their own content and it’s easier to commission and buy training packages from a third party than finding someone in-house to do it; formal training is more tangible and measurable, and it’s easier to understand and implement.

Yet HR leaders know the value of informal learning, they discuss it regularly at sector conferences, but it isn’t as easy to organize and set in motion. And monitoring the return on investment is more challenging. They know there are people in senior positions and roles who have to be pushed to embrace informality in a workplace setting, and find it difficult to encourage these people to support informal learning. It’s clear the ideal would be to have a platform that could be used for both formal training and informal learning, but those managers do not know such a thing exists.

“I can tell you that it does,” says Marcelino Elosua, chief executive of collaborative learning platform Bluebottlebiz. “Bluebottlebiz has developed a platform that heightens and facilitates informal learning, while retaining some of the positive elements of formal learning. We call this mix ‘collaborative learning’, because the main intention is to foster collaboration and a culture of sharing.”

This table summarizes and compares the main tasks of the HR department within a system of formal training and within a collaborative platform:

Formal, traditional training system Collaborative learning platform
Source and pay for the platform Encourage the use of the platform, it comes free
Define courses and content for every level of seniority and role; oversee their preparation and updating Identify training required and prompt internal experts to provide this; allow most of the staff to take this up via the platform and users find and rate similar materials
Encourage staff to take up training Oversee ratings, identify natural leaders, spread news of the best material
Direct and monitor individuals’ training (to boost short-term productivity) Focus on motivating, developing and retaining talent and on overall results


Collaborative learning platforms are more versatile, flexible and effective than traditional training systems. HR departments may not be used to ­collaborative learning, but the unstoppable march of the sharing economy means they soon will be.