Taming the social learning ‘beast’ for organizational learning

Posted on : July 11th, 2014
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social learning Continual training provides many benefits in a work environment where the shelf life of skills and knowledge is getting shorter. Much of the learning in the workplace is now becoming learner-driven – a perfect setting for social and collaborative learning. With a little structure, social learning can be a huge success for organizational learning.

How to drive Social Learning strategy in an organization?

Traditionally, most enterprise-wide training and learning initiatives are have a top to bottom flow. L&D managers assess learning needs and choose from the available array of learning tools or platforms. Top management then vets the chosen tool or platform. It is then purchased and implemented – and finally the end-users i.e. the learners start to utilize it. An appropriate example of this would be the enterprise-wide implementation of a Learning Management System (LMS). Leading workplace learning and collaboration advisor Jane Hart asserts this approach does not work for a Social Learning initiative. The reason for this is that sharing and collaboration cannot be forced. The learners need to see the merits of collaborative efforts and only then can the initiative succeed.

  1. Identify your social learning champions

    • Learner groups within an organization are mostly divided into two groups – the social media savvy and the social media wary.
    • Many learners are avid users of social media and utilize it to share their experiences. They might be active on public sites or within the corporate intranet. So before launching the social learning intitive, identify active social learners and take their support to market the idea of sharing and learning from each other.
    • Both the groups benefit from this approach. The social-media savvy group will take pride in driving the initiative while the social media wary group will derive support and encouragement from their peers.
  2. Retain organic structure but Define goals

    • The long term goals of social learning seek to increase sharing behavior and improve collaborative efforts. Most social learning experts believe that this is best achieved when learners get a fair amount of autonomy in learning. This can be achieved by encouraging learners to discuss issues and queries that they perceive as important, share information that they deem useful and so on. This drives their enthusiasm as well as keeps them engaged.
    • Short term goals of a social learning initiative can also be set – and trainers can be included to take it forward. We have shared a host of innovative ways of deriving useful outcomes of social learning in a previous post. For instance, a story-building approach can be utilized to encourage collaborative efforts. The trainer can provide the first ‘chapter’ and the learners take it forward. The Learners are allowed to read other entries, choose the best one and make it better with comments and suggestions that are unanimously implemented. Collaborative features of common tools like MS Work or PowerPoint can be utilized to thus create usable products – like reports, documentations or storyboards.
  3. Recognize and Reward

    • Once the social learning initiative is on the way, it is important to sustain it through recognizing individual successes as well as that of the entire learner group.
    • Learner groups who have been participating and sharing well can be applauded for their efforts on the company intranet or even in a social mention in the organization newsletter.
    • Individuals can be given special points or collectibles for being ‘top-contributor’ or ‘most-shared’. The points can then be exchanged for actual rewards – certificates, discount coupons or even gift vouchers.
  4. Avoid information overload

    • Here too, trainers can fruitfully contribute in making social learning a success. Instead of directing the learning, they can facilitate it to make sure that the topics discussed are in the scope of organizational learning. This will make sure that the knowledge keeps growing without the information overload.
    • Encouraging learners to inculcate popular social media traits like using hash-tags helps search for pertinent content within a social learning platform. This also avoids discussions on same or similar topics and encourages organic growth – all without the strain of too much information within the social forum.

Social learning is not just a passing ‘fad’ and forward-looking organizations are already reaping its benefits. In addition to creating a space for learners to connect and engage, it is also a powerful platform of learning. For more on our experiences with social learning, write to info@gc-solutions.net or fill the form below:

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is an e-learning blogger and likes discussing innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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