Social learning is on the rise. Organisational use of communities of practice is set to increase by 28% to 78%, while the use of learning communities is predicted to increase by 26% to 72% in the next two years. But we sometimes hear L&D teams saying they're not sure how social learning fits into their existing learning strategy. The fact is, social learning is beneficial at every moment of learning need, and this post will explore how you can integrate social into your learning experience at every stage.
When people are learning how to do something for the first time (New)
Learning from peers can be invaluable when it comes to doing something for the first time. Let's take the example of till training in a retail environment. A new employee won't be expected to use a till for the very first time on their own with a customer. Instead, they will watch how a more experienced employee uses it first, before doing it themselves under guidance. The same can apply in an online learning network too. This stage is all about asking questions, gathering information and exploring the new subject matter, which is significantly more effective with the help of others. These in-person training experiences can then be reinforced with access to an enterprise social network such as Totara Learning, enabling learners to reinforce their learning and clarify anything they didn't understand at the time.
- When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned (More)
During this stage, social learning can help people tap into the expertise of their networks. As they build their competence, this may unlock another wave of questions as they become more confident with the subject matter. For instance, after completing a few simple transactions themselves, a new till operator may be ready to learn about more complex transaction types. While they may be able to get this information from the till manual or printed training materials, learning with another person enables them to ask questions as and when they arise for more efficient learning. Once they have a foundation level of knowledge, they can then reach out to their network online for more tips or advice. This is particularly useful when the learner may not have in-person access to someone with the expertise they need, such as if they work shifts or the expert is based in a different location.
- When people need to act upon what they have learned (Apply)
Not every situation will be the same cut-and-paste scenario as they learnt in their training. Sometimes, unique situations will arise which the learner may not be prepared for, or they may forget something important later down the line. The till operator may go several weeks without issuing a refund for a faulty item, and may start to forget the process. By having access to an online community, they can quickly take a look at the existing bank of user-contributed knowledge, such as forums or blog posts, to help jog their memory. Alternatively, the learner may know they have an unfamiliar situation approaching, and may reach out on the social platform for pointers to help them apply their knowledge appropriately.
- When problems arise (Solve)
Things won't always work as the learner expects, and when this is the case, they will likely turn to their peers for assistance. If a till starts showing an error code and there are no supervisors around, they can check the enterprise social network to see if anyone else has encountered the issue before, and if so how they can solve it. Or, an office worker may find that a specific piece of software crashes frequently. They can quickly access a wide audience by posting a question with screenshots of the problem on their internal forum, which could be significantly faster than raising a support ticket with their IT team. This also alerts everyone to the problem in one go, ensuring everyone is aware and has the chance to prepare for the same issue themselves.
- When people need to learn a new way of doing something (Change)
Change can be difficult to manage in organisations. People get used to their way of working, and many people can be resistant to learning to use new systems and processes. Here, the right social learning strategy can spell the difference between success and failure. Now is the time to identify the authorities in your social network and encourage them to post messages of support or about their personal success with the new system. For instance, if your retail chain starts using an entirely new till system, you can encourage the early uptakers to post on your enterprise social network about the benefits of the new system and to share their advice. You could reward them with increased social status on the network, such as a 'till expert' badge or making them an ambassador for the new system. People may be more inclined to listen to their peers than the senior management, so this can help drive change and get people up to speed faster.
And of course, social learning isn't just limited to these moments. What about the times your employees come up with great new ideas to make processes more efficient, or to improve the results they achieve on a day-to-day basis? These employees could visit the social platform and suggest the idea on a forum, write a blog about why they think it's a good idea or post it as a poll for other participants to vote on. Other employees can then respond to the ideas, join in with thoughts of their own or make suggestions based on their own experiences, no matter where they are. As well as this, social learning is a great way to instill a sense of cohesiveness into a geographically dispersed workforce who may have few opportunities to interact. This is especially valuable when your experts are split across sites, making them more accessible to the wider workforce.
When do you find social learning most useful? Will you be trying any of these tips? Download our free guide to introducing social learning to your blend for more inspiration.