What is Social Learning?
Social learning is the form of learning where people in an organization learn from each other in an informal manner. In a social learning set-up, learners collaborate, engage and interact with each other either virtually or in a physical location. These interactions involve actively sharing, seeking or co-creating knowledge. Unlike classroom learning, social learning is open, unstructured and informal but very powerful and effective at the same time. Learning experts opine that it is not only the “in”-thing today, it is also going to be critical to business success. Best- in-class organizations are successfully adopting this learning approach to build people and organizational capability.
Social Learning is indispensable.
Here are the top four reasons:
- Knowledge is dynamic
For many of us, the knowledge we acquired in our college or university is no longer relevant today. Some of the knowledge we use today at work or business was never taught to us in the universities where we studied. A lot of knowledge we are going to use a decade from now doesn’t exist today. The pace at which current knowledge is getting obsolete and new knowledge is being created is mind-boggling. How can organizations upgrade and upskill their workforce at a fast pace? Can the conventional classroom training run by the L&D departments in organizations meet this need? Or do we need to turn to social learning to rescue us?
- Presence of Millennials in the workforce
Millennials comprise over 70% of the workforce today. Their learning styles and preferences are different from that of Gen-X or baby boomers. Millennials hate structure, formal curriculum and regimented classroom sessions. They prefer open, informal, structureless learning environments. They prefer to learn at their own pace primarily through collaboration with peers or colleagues while working together on specific projects or assignments. They are also technology savvy and are quite adept at tools that enable social learning. Needless to say that social learning is ideal for such a target group in organizations.
- Evolving new Knowledge through Crowdsourcing
How on earth can you have multiple perspectives on the same problem? How can you leverage the wealth of knowledge available in your organization but lying scattered across functions, teams, countries etc.? Social Learning is the best tool to help you achieve this objective. Today large organizations instead of approaching the specialists or subject matter experts to solve business problems are turning to their larger employee base for new ideas and solutions.
- Social learning is already happening. We cannot stop it.
Social Learning is not new. It has been there since times immemorial. In the industrial era, quality circles were very popular and they are great examples of social learning. As we moved from industrial age to the age of the knowledge worker, social learning became even more commonplace. Communities of Practice have emerged and thrived in the recent times. This trend was further accelerated with the emergence of social media tools. Today employees can find other people in their organization or outside with similar interests with whom they can collaborate and engage to learn new skills and create new experiences for themselves. We as HR or L&D practitioners just need to build the right ecosystem where people can reach out, engage and collaborate with each other.
Various organizations are in various stages of social learning adaptation today. Some organizations believe that social learning is a fad and it won’t work for them. Some others understand the importance of social learning but don’t know how to make it work.
There are only a few organizations who are the front-runners in this space and have very successfully adopted social learning to drive capability building and derive business value. Where does your organization feature today?
In this article, we focused on why social learning is indispensable to an organizations’s success. In the forthcoming article, let us shift our focus to ‘making social learning work in an organization’.
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