Nearly every business can benefit from creating a connected culture of learning. A social learning culture means that learning doesn’t just happen in formal training sessions. Instead, the overall design of the workplace is one that fosters information sharing, and employees encounter opportunities to learn on a regular basis.
One way to set up a culture of collaborative learning is to apply the principles of social learning when designing the overall enterprise learning strategy.
This guide will examine what social learning is, its benefits, and how training teams can implement it in the workplace. We’ll also cover some interesting points on social learning theory.
The theory bridges cognitive learning with the impacts of behavior and environment. It's one of the four types of learning styles that trainees can fit within.
This concept can absolutely be applied in the workplace. However, it’s not a passive way of learning. Participants must actively observe, remember, and replicate. They must also be motivated to learn from others in their environment.
Company leaders play an important role here. They must work to create an organizational infrastructure that encourages learning through social engagement and modeling.
What Are the Benefits of Social Learning?
There are many benefits to incorporating social learning style in the workplace. Today, this approach to learning is even more valid, as it can help remote team members retain connections with one another when employees aren’t sharing physical space.
This setup doesn’t just improve productivity and make training more effective. It also helps to build trust. Here are a few more benefits.
Increased Engagement and Participation
Social learning style is designed to encourage active participation and employee engagement. Trainees communicate and interact as part of the process, which leads to more active learning and better retention of knowledge. Simply adding social functionality to learning can positively impact participation.
More Collaboration Between Workers
When team collaboration happens during the training process, it’s more likely to continue when workers are asked to apply what they have learned in a production environment.
Leaders can facilitate this collaboration by encouraging the use of social channels to give all workers the opportunity to contribute, even asynchronously. Workers are eager to collaborate because they can make valuable contributions in a way that works for them.
Additionally, more collaboration happens as the result of social learning simply because there are more opportunities for it. The framework for collaboration is there, and team members find ways to engage with one another as a result.
Trainers can further encourage collaboration by offering training programs in social learning. This might involve delivering online or in-person training on the social and interactive features of the company’s learning management system.
Encouragement of Knowledge Sharing
Reskilling and upskilling are both important to applying social learning theory in the workplace. For example, corporate trainers can arrange webinars, “brown bag training sessions,” or other initiatives where people from various departments share important skills and information.
Social learning encourages participants to share ideas and viewpoints with one another. The discussions that result from these efforts can help to polish and improve the new ideas until they’re refined enough to be useful in the workplace.
User-generated content is an important component of any workplace learning initiative. When workers share their knowledge, they may create guides, wikis, FAQs, manuals, and other valuable content that can be integrated into the company’s knowledge base.
Implementing a social learning style in company training encourages valuable sharing on many levels.
Fits the Social and Learning Approach of the Modern Worker
Millennials make up 35% of the workplace. Gen-Z is currently lagging behind, but that will quickly change in the next few years. Before long, the vast majority of the workforce will be digitally native and have a strong preference for digital social engagement. Both of these characteristics make a social learning approach a perfect fit.
How Can You Nurture and Encourage Social Learning?
The good news is that companies with an infrastructure that includes an intuitive learning management system and collaborative tools are in a perfect position to encourage social learning.
Remember that social learning isn’t about implementing a formal training approach. Instead, it’s about building a framework and creating opportunities for people in the workplace to learn from one another. The following strategies are ideal for integrating social learning styles naturally:
Take Advantage of Internal Expertise
Identify the people within your business who are industry or subject matter experts. Then, create ways for them to provide information to others and for workers to approach them with questions and requests for information.
Don’t gate-keep this expertise. Instead, ensure that their knowledge and insights are available to anybody with an interest in increasing their understanding.
Since this level of expertise is often found in company leadership, this learning strategy will work best with buy-in from management. Experts must be willing to participate actively and consistently for it to work.
Create Forums and Discussion Groups
Consider implementing a company-owned digital discussion platform. Workers can use such a tool to engage in discussion and collaboration when working on projects. They can also reach out to peers to gather information and increase knowledge.
Prioritize the Company Knowledge Base
Many organizations have taken steps to implement a knowledge base. Unfortunately, these efforts often fizzle out, leaving companies with a knowledge base that’s incomplete or out of date.
A powerful knowledge base can act as the cornerstone of a social learning culture. By encouraging everyone to contribute to the creation of an accessible repository of information, the benefits of knowledge sharing are accessible to everyone.
Normalize Asking Questions
Asking questions is one area in which company leaders can serve as an example to their teams. In many ways, asking questions and seeking clarification are central to learning socially.
Unfortunately, not all workplace cultures are designed to encourage asking questions. However, leadership can take an active role in changing this by serving as examples and allowing themselves to be observed asking and answering questions of others.
Start Social Learning During the Onboarding Process
New employees should be introduced to the company’s social learning program from day one during the onboarding process. Give them access to any tools or platforms that have been implemented to encourage social learning. Also, inform them of any knowledge-sharing or mentoring opportunities.
Use Gamification to Reward Social Learning
Leaders can combine gamification with the social process of learning to improve engagement, give participants confidence, and keep people involved in the process when they’re struggling.
Competition is an important component of social interaction. Adding elements of gamification in training can help with this. Workers receive motivation and rewards for participation and can compare their progress with others.