According to Forbes, social learning is one of the largest trends in the business environment in 2018. Social learning is not new; it is simply learning that occurs in a social context. Businesses have learned that a rigid hierarchy in which employees do not share what they know with each other and their bosses limit the vibrancy and the potential for growth for employees and the organization. Social learning can take place in your organization online as well as in person.
Online Discussion Groups
One means of allowing employees to interact and learn from each other is through online discussion groups. This can be combined with some type of online training. Taking a cue from one of the most successful online educational platforms in the country, Walden University, students may be spread out over the country and some may be located in other countries, yet one important means of learning training content is to have discussions with one’s peers about what one has learned and how it can be applied in their own context. A key to online discussions is to require employees to share their ideas about how they will use the new information and what problems they anticipate in its implementation. In the second round of discussion, employees then need to be required to pick some of their peer’s initial posts and suggest means of overcoming the potential roadblocks. Another great idea for stimulating online discussion is, to begin with, an icebreaker that allows employees to share personal information about each other. This icebreaker could be as simple as having each employee share where they live, about their family, and hobbies and personal interests. This helps people move beyond the impersonal online platform.
Allow for Team-Building
Teamwork is not always a perfect process, but the benefits usually are larger than the drawbacks. One way to overcome the possibility of conflicts marring the team-building process is to allow employees to participate in some team-building activity that may have nothing to do with their jobs and allows them to be placed in a situation that they have to learn to trust each other. One activity that companies and schools have successfully utilized to get new teams off to a good start is a day engaged in a ropes course. Ropes courses utilize ropes, cables, and utility poles that help team members push beyond their limits and learn to trust each other. The San Joaquin County of Education has found that a day of ropes training is so valuable for team-building that they have built their own ropes course.
Teams need regular time to meet and come up with solutions. A good idea from teams of teachers is for leaders to create an agenda of topics that need to be discussed during the meeting. It is advised to keep the agenda open enough to allow for team members to discuss their own important issues they generate.
Training with someone rattling on about Powerpoint slides is less effective than regularly having employees interact with the presenter and each other about what they have learned. They need to get up and move around and look for other members who have an answer to their question or query. They need to try a new skill and look over each others’ shoulders, providing help and advice. They need to break into small groups and have mini-discussions. They need to do a Think-Pair-Share. That is where the presenter asks employees to talk about an aspect of what they just learned to the person sitting beside them. As with online discussion groups, start with an icebreaker that allows attendees to quickly get to know about each other as people. What do they do outside of your organization?
Social learning, whether it is online or in person, helps employees learn from each other and share their ideas and expertise. It also provides a means of employees interacting with management and providing key insights from those that are doing the heavy lifting in the organization.