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Sharing is caring – social learning in the workplace

Moving away from the outdated idea that learning is about formal training events is all well and good, but it’s time for us to start taking action. Social learning is a definitive theory in education, but has become much more widely recognised in workplace learning since the dawn of social media. Like all forms, social learning has certain pitfalls to be avoided, but when executed properly and alongside a wider learning strategy, it allows your workforce to feel the benefit of cohesive knowledge sharing.

Social learning in the workplace

One of the main issues with social learning in the workplace is that it can initially take a whole lot of curation before it picks up traction and becomes self-sustaining, making it a really time-intensive process to begin with. It is important to build up trust in the process, people and community from both management level and the learners for social learning to really work. It’s also crucial to break down the idea that ‘knowledge is power’ to ensure that knowledge is readily shared through your internal community. Many learners express concerns about ‘making waves’ when discussing topics with their peers, so the possibility of anonymity is an important aspect of learning communities. Stakeholders and business leaders often struggle to see the potential and benefit of social learning in the workplace, meaning it’s essential to prove that it’s an easy process with measurable benefit bringing real value to your workplace.

Learning away from the classroom

Dispersed communities will have a much greater need for social learning, so the focus should be on these groups to begin with to aid their cohesion. Furthermore, there’s no reason why purpose-built communities can’t be used for a fixed period of time, for example, being used during a project before closing. This not only gives it more focus and purpose, but means there is much less possibility of the community simply fizzling out. Social learning in the workplace is particularly useful for induction training, where staff will have the time and the motivation to take advantage of communities and the knowledge within them. In this and all cases, it’s important to establish trust in social learning groups through moderation, rules and safe channels of communication. To read insights into social learning in practice and to find out how you can implement social learning in the workplace effectively, take a look at our social and informal learning page.