Why Social Learning Works for Organizations

social learning

Twenty years ago, it would have been considered odd to invite people to your home in order to show them a wall full of your family photos. Today, this is considered perfectly normal behavior and we do it all the time on social media.

Society has grown more accustomed to people sharing aspects of their lives with others. Organizations can tap into this willingness to share with others by having more employees share their knowledge, expertise, and experience with fellow employees through social learning.

More and more organizations are recognizing social learning’s benefits. The advent of social media has made our world more socially connected than ever before, enabling people and brands to share information with one another that is timely, relevant, and tailored to the user. Smart organizations are now using a similar approach to learning and development.

Social learning represents a major shift in our culture. The popularity of social media and business models such as Airbnb and Uber, which have powered the sharing economy, have primed organizations to become more comfortable with this style of transmitting information internally.

And while social learning theory has existed since the late 70s, modern technology has now made it possible for organizations to facilitate social learning at scale.

Organizations have started to adopt the power of social sharing for the purposes of enhancing internal learning and development, onboarding, and training. When individual employees are better able to communicate with one another and departments can more easily cross-pollinate and share information and ideas, the organization as a whole benefits.

Perhaps, the most obvious upside of social learning is speed. Employers and managers used to have to sit down with employees and extract knowledge from them so they could then share it with others. Social learning saves the time and steps needed to tease subject matter out from internal experts by putting experts directly in front of employees.

Organizations can get experts to create training videos or webinars or write articles and share them with their team members. Having experts create and share content themselves is more efficient than interviewing them and then having others create the learning and development content.

However, in order to implement a successful learning and development program, organizations still require the full participation of their employees. They cannot simply rely on technology or a fancy LMS to fulfill their learning and development needs.

The most valuable asset an organization has is its people. Organizations committed to enhancing learning and development must leverage their employees to get other employees more involved.

To do this, learning and development must not be made to feel like something extra. Otherwise, it will be perceived as a burdensome chore being added to employees’ already full plates of responsibilities.

And so, another important benefit of social learning is that employees actually like it. Social learning taps into our social instincts and our desire for praise and recognition. It provides tremendous opportunities for employees to get recognized as thought leaders and noticed by superiors, which could potentially lead to promotions. Employees are happy to share their knowledge when doing so gives them a personal advantage.

The popularity of LinkedIn in the corporate world is evidence that most of us are already comfortable sharing our knowledge and expertise with colleagues in exchange for growing our networks and boosting our social clout.

Employers can therefore rest assured in knowing that asking employees to do the same internally is not asking too much. Incorporating the spirit of sharing and social learning is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to the health and wellbeing of an organization.