Employers are always looking for ways to enhance the effectiveness of their training program. While it is true that each employee has his or her own unique style of learning, there are certain fundamental principles that can aid an organization in developing talent, boosting productivity, and supporting the unique needs of their teams. In this regard, social learning initiatives are becoming increasingly popular.
This article will answer the following questions concerning social learning:
- What is social learning?
- What are the benefits of social learning?
- How can you incorporate social learning into your company’s training program?
What is Social Learning?
Social learning is a style of learning that emphasizes interaction and discussion in an environment structured to foster greater engagement and knowledge retention. Proponents of this learning model claim that the engagement generated from social learning formats is much higher than that generated from more traditional classroom settings that typically implement a lecture-then-exam approach.
The social learning theory is largely derived from the work of Albert Bandura. This model promotes the 70/20/10 rule: namely, that 70% of learning occurs on the job or through experience, 20% comes from social interaction with other people, and only 10% comes from formal education. As you can imagine, adherents to the social learning theory emphasize the importance of collaboration and “knowledge-pooling” above that of instructor-led education.
Social learning methods can be leveraged not only in the classroom or at an onsite location, but it is also incredibly useful in remote environments. Depending on the functionality of your Learning Management System (LMS) or eLearning platform, you can create more opportunities for learners to connect with one another through interactive content and other forms of engagement. For example, peer–to–peer interactions through forums and discussion boards allow for collaboration asynchronously while web conferencing and mobile applications can help learners connect in real time. In addition, social learning can also be competition-based, giving learners the opportunity to earn badges or rank in leadership boards through gamified lessons. We’ll explore these tactics and more towards the end of this post, but if you’d like to learn more now you can skip to it down below.
Why Emphasize Social Learning in Your Training Programs?
There are several benefits associated with social learning initiatives in the workplace. These include:
- Increased employee engagement. It’s no secret that employees often tend to grow bored or frustrated in both the classroom and online training environments. The increased social contact and activity required by social learning typically boosts employee engagement with the training program across the board.
- Measurable results. Contrary to what you might expect, the effectiveness of social learning initiatives can often be measured in concrete terms. As one example, an online education initiative from Harvard Business School (known as HBX) increased course completion rates from single digits to 85% when it introduced social learning. Additionally, you can access insightful reporting on learner engagement and interaction through the use of powerful data and analytics tools within your LMS.
- Ongoing development. Social learning initiatives encourage employees to think of training and development as an ongoing process and a part of your company culture, instead of a hurdle that must be overcome in order to advance to the next step.
- Increased productivity. Proper use of social technologies and forums usually have a direct and obvious effect on employee performance. Employees that feel supported by their peers tend to experience higher levels of satisfaction on the job; and an effective social learning infrastructure offers additional support options for team members that want to improve job performance.
5 Ways to Incorporate Social Learning in Your Training
While we could discuss countless methods of incorporating social learning into your training program, let’s focus on five key avenues to accomplish this:
1. Web Conferencing
Web conferencing (also known as video conferencing or webcasting) is a social learning technique that brings people together within a virtual “meeting room” environment. Examples of web conferencing platforms include GoToMeeting, Zoom, and LogMeIn.
Employers can use web conferencing sessions for company meetings, updates, training sessions, webinars, focus group sessions, etc. By now, many companies have already begun to use some form of web conferencing to collaborate with employees remotely or across locations before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interactivity features that web conferencing platforms offer can effectively promote your company’s next social learning initiative. For example, platforms like Zoom offer the following features:
- Raise hand, which signals that a participant wants to make a comment.
- Screen sharing, which makes the collaboration process quicker and easier when one participant needs to share a document or video.
- Breakout rooms, which enable smaller teams to break off from the main session to collaborate on a specific project.
Gamified learning, or gamification, is a great way to increase employee engagement and generate some friendly competition at the same time. With so many of today’s top employees emerging from newer and younger generations – from millennials to gen z and beyond – gamification allows you to turn your learning content into stimulating and amusing lessons that learners will enjoy engaging with and in formats that are familiar to many learners. Furthermore, gamified content can be used to recreate real-life simulations and augmented reality, providing a more immersive experience when learning how to perform in certain scenarios and meet the challenges within their role.
Gamification initiatives with rewards and incentives can motivate employees to progress in their learning path and develop the necessary skills to boost their productivity.
3. Online Forums
While some employees prefer to do research on their own when confronted with a question or dilemma, many others are more comfortable with asking a knowledgeable colleague or collaborating with a few team members for their input. You can turn this natural tendency into an advantage for your company by developing a specific online forum for more experienced employees to answer questions from their peers.
One of the biggest advantages that such a forum would yield is the ability for employees to access a support network at any point of their day, instead of waiting for a manager or subject matter expert to become available.
4. Expert Knowledge
Similar to the point above, you can also train and develop a group of “mentors” that will stand ready to assist their colleagues with any complicated issues. There are a number of benefits associated with this approach. For instance:
- Your mentors act as an extra layer of support for your team members and insulate your management team from questions that other employees can answer.
- Your mentors will be able to grow their own knowledge base and refine their social skills.
- Finally, your mentors will be able to report on operational bottlenecks, common training issues, and other trends that are affecting your business.
5. Organizational “Knowledge Library”
Another way to incorporate social learning into your training program is to establish an inter-organizational “knowledge library,” or digital database of helpful articles. Think of it as your company’s own “Wikipedia.” Internal experts can contribute with help articles that align with their experience, and these articles can be occasionally updated by other authorized users in the company — or perhaps any employee.
If you implement these practices for social learning in your workplace training program, you’ll almost certainly see improved results in terms of employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. Of course, proper use of a learning management system (LMS) will also further your social learning objectives. Contact eThink today to see which LMS solution might be right for you or request an individual demonstration below.
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