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4 tips to introduce social/collaborative learning in your organization

how to introduce social/collaborative learning to an organization

Social/collaborative learning helps employees absorb at least 75% of information in the workplace. This refers to knowledge acquired through observation of colleagues, receiving feedback, and asking questions. Nowadays, in the times of dispersed teams, social learning has new aspects to it. Since employees rarely work in the same office, at the same time, the methods of workplace learning should also be digitalized.

Social learning takes place in every organization

It doesn’t matter whether there are any processes supporting social learning in your company or not – it still happens. When employees are faced with a challenge and have no idea how to come up with a solution, they talk to their colleagues. To improve their cooperation and to support the employees that take part in it, social learning should come into focus.

The ROI ratio for social learning is 75:1, as compared with formal online courses. If you’re planning to use and introduce social/collaborative learning in your organization, what you need to do first is to create learning space. This notion can be interpreted in two ways. First of all, it’s about infrastructure – the tools that support social/collaborative learning in a company. The other aspect involves corporate values and culture.

Tools – the productivity of employees can rise by as much as 20–25% thanks to the application of effective social learning technologies. This means more than access to state-of-the-art technologies that facilitate work and communication. This is also about creating a platform for experience exchange, daily communication, and team building as well as collecting and storing information that can prove useful to other employees, also future ones.

Corporate values and culture – tools as such won’t be of use if the organizational culture is not open to answering questions, providing feedback, and accepting mistakes. All these elements make social/collaborative learning effective and motivate employees to improve their working style. Before introducing social/collaborative learning in your organization, you need to scrutinize its culture and values. You need to find out if there are any serious conflicts or if the regular employees and the management are separated by a symbolic wall. If this is the case, colleagues are likely to teach each other not only work-related knowledge and best practices, but also harmful habits and attitudes.

How to introduce social/collaborative learning in your organization

1. Communication

The first step to introduce social/collaborative learning in an organization is the proper selection of communication tools. These include internal chats and messengers, channels for particular departments and projects, and closed thematic groups, where employees can find information on specific subjects. The advantage of online messengers over offline conversations is that questions normally get answered immediately, as anyone in the group can do it if they have time. It is through asking questions and testing a variety of solutions that employees learn new procedures most effectively. Another great thing about in-company messengers is that they make it possible to read other people’s discussions, which is also a valuable learning resource.

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2. Buddies

In 2017, Leroy Merlin had to transform the company’s onboarding process. Statistics showed that up to 55% of the employees who left the company were those who had worked there for no more than 3 months. That was mostly caused by the lack of involvement on the part of the supervisors and mentors in the onboarding process. Leroy Merlin decided to implement the 70/20/10 learning and development model. In this model, 10% of time is devoted to the acquisition of formal knowledge, 20% of time is spent on learning from the training mentor or supervisor, and 70% refers to learning through working. Thanks to the new approach, Leroy Merlin managed to raise average employee productivity from 40% up to 70% within the first month and reduce the turnover by 9% among the employees who had worked for less than a year. One of the changes made by the company was the introduction of the buddy role. A buddy is a co-worker who functions as a guide for the new colleagues and helps them through the difficult first days at work. New employees usually have all the qualifications necessary for their job but they don’t know how to use them; they don’t know the procedures and standards of the organization. The task of the buddy is to help them learn these procedures effectively. 

3. Knowledge hub

Social learning has one drawback. In a way, employees learn the exceptions before learning the rules. This is why new employees need access to a knowledge hub where they will be able to find all the necessary information, process descriptions, the company standards, values, and organizational structure. They need a database that they can access at any time to find in-depth information about the problems at hand. This kind of database may serve as a great tool for introducing social/collaborative learning in an organization. It can become a platform where the more experienced employees regularly describe the good practices related to their roles or share files that are necessary for a given project. One of the strengths of a good database is that the data gathered by employees doesn’t disappear or get lost. The know-how is available to anyone in the company – and to nobody else. 

4. Webinars and online meet-ups

Workplace learning is getting more and more digital these days. Webinars and videoconferences allow employees to learn new things in an efficient way and to ask questions about all the unclear subjects. However, to be able to ask questions and dispel doubts, new employees need to have some minimum knowledge in a given field – otherwise, they won’t even know what to ask about. That’s why it’s a great idea to make use of various opportunities offered by online meetings. These include presentations, video co-watching, and live polls. Such meetings give room for role-playing, scenario testing, and creating job samples. Thanks to screen sharing, for instance, new employees are able to follow the actions of more experienced colleagues, step-by-step. This functionality is an effective substitute of the act of watching colleagues at work, which is a crucial element of social learning.

No matter what you do, it’s feedback that matters

If you wish to introduce social/collaborative learning in your organization, you need to promote the culture of sharing and receiving feedback in its structure. This will encourage employees to offer feedback to each other and to learn more about their strengths and areas of improvement in this way. However, the feedback-based approach has another important aspect in relation to social learning. Based on the data gathered from employees, you will be able to build an effective skills development system, perfectly suited to the employees’ needs. Let your employees tell you directly what makes them learn easier.

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