When people in companies want to learn something new, they often look online or sign up for a learning course. Many people don’t think of the most common form of learning when they want to learn something new: social learning.
This type of learning has been around ever since humanity first started passing on skills. In today’s technological world, social learning has evolved from being only face-to-face to being online.
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What is Social Learning?
The most basic definition of social learning is the process of learning from other people. This can occur when we watch other people, talk to other people, or share resources with others.
In terms of the business world, social learning is an informal process whereby coworkers learn from each other. This can be in the form of peer presentations, in the moment help with a task, or more technology-based help like blogs, wikis, forums, social media, and videos.
Albert Bandura created the theory of social learning in 1977, stating that people learn best when they watch and imitate other people. He stated that people identified as role models can teach others how to be just by acting in certain ways. Others emulate their behaviors and learn what they need to do to be like those role models.
Humans are such social creatures, that we all learn from each other, even when we don't realize it. Almost all learning is social learning in some way.
The Importance of Social Learning
Social learning is so natural to us, it can be easy to miss when looking at how to improve learning in the workplace. But it is a very important aspect of learning that companies can strengthen for their advantage.
When companies support social learning, they support something natural to humans. In this way, they help employees work smarter, through collaboration and sociability.
The Benefits of Social Learning
There are many benefits to incorporating social learning into your learning practices.
Social learning relies on help from peers. This means that anyone who needs to learn something new or needs help with a task can ask another employee. They do not have to wait for a scheduled training session. They can get help as soon as they need it.
In the moment
When employees need answers right in the moment, they usually cannot wait. Social learning allows employees to learn something new at the exact time they need to learn it. They can then put the new knowledge to use on real problems right at that moment.
Employees who are uncomfortable asking questions in group trainings can ask peers in private or can use social learning platforms to find answers to questions they have.
With technology and social media, social learning can take place almost anywhere, at any time. The information is also stored on the platform so that learners can go back to it when they need to.
Social media also allows learners to benefit from social interactons without having to actively participate in a discussion. They can read posts and like or share certain parts of the discussion.
By using social learning, people can share their expertise with others in the workplace.
Technology helps this as experts can share videos, how-tos, and guides with many people at the same time.
Social learning takes away the instructor-led training model and puts learning in the hands of employees. They are responsible for how much they learn and when they learn it.
By some estimates, people only remember 58% of what they have learned 30 minutes after they have learned it and only 35% after a week. Social learning gives employees a greater sense of control and greater motivation to learn more.
Continuous learning has been a new term used quite often lately to describe how companies want employees to learn during their entire career, not just sporadically.
The Brandon Hall Group Report states that more than 60% of companies want their employees to learn on a daily or weekly basis. Social learning helps this as it most often occurs in small bits whenever an employee needs to learn something in real time.
Creating a more collaborative and learning-centered culture at work is easier when leaders embrace social learning. Sharing with others, learning from others, and being social can make employees feel like they are part of the team and increase motivation.
There are many benefits to social learning, all of which help employees learn and help the company increase many of its main objectives for learning: performance, profit, culture, and others.
The more companies keep employees working together and learning from each other, the more they will see the benefits: working and learning smarter, not harder.