Do you want to incorporate social learning in your organization’s training and development regimen? You’re in good company.

Noted psychologist Albert Bandura established the theory of social learning in the late 1970s, and companies and educators have been implementing formal plans for social learning since then. With the rise of social media, there’s been an increased focus on social learning in the workplace. Today, social learning includes:

  • Connecting and communicating on different social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, etc.
  • Collaborating and creating content with team members using programs like Google Docs, PowerPoint, Lectora Online or employee generated wikis
  • Searching, accessing and bookmarking blogs, videos and podcasts
  • Brainstorming sessions or conversations with co-workers at the office
  • e-Learning courses that promote dialogue among team members or groups

Research from Bersin and Associates indicates that learners retain a mere five percent of what they hear and just ten percent of what they read. But when learners become more actively involved, the amount they retain increases greatly: 

  • Roughly 50 percent of material covered through discussion and interaction is retained
  • More than 75 percent of learning that takes place through on-the-job experience is retained

Social learning supports the continuous learning process within teams, groups and organizations and when used effectively, can have a huge impact on employees’ knowledge acquisition and talent development.

Follow these best practices to ensure a successful social learning program in your workplace

  1. Encourage participationStart by finding a focus. Define a topic and duration to give participants a structure and an obvious starting point. Think about starting your blogs, wikis, etc. on common support issues or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Set up a meeting place, and provide an agenda to get content started. Another great way to ensure the success of your social learning efforts is to find a “champion,” a respected, well-liked employee who believes in your cause and can get others to join in.
  2. Provide the right tools In an e-Learning context, learners need tools that allow them to socially and collaboratively connect with one another when navigating through e-Learning courses and online training. Lectora Online e-Learning Software includes a valuable feature that enables learners to stream YouTube videos straight from e-Learning courses. As learners watch and discuss video tutorials and demos, they can ask questions and give feedback in real time, creating a truly collaborative social learning environment. Lectora Online has many other features that promote social learning, including mobile capabilities, social network integration and ongoing feedback and messaging opportunities.
  3. Open the lines of communication It’s important to encourage your employees to share their knowledge and experience. Instant Messaging (IM) has many benefits, including delivering instant results and eliminating the pressure of a formal email. Many organizations are averse to adopting IM as a form of communication for fear of generating too much idle chitchat. However, it does allow for logs and monitoring, which can help ensure that it is used productively. For many companies, it makes sense to create a private and secure social learning environment that promotes conversation and connection between employees.
  4. Avoid the social media black hole Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest make it easy for people to connect and share information, but they are quick to suck you into aimless browsing and distractions. Jay Cross in his book Informal Learning, points out that workers waste one-third of their time looking for information. Be sure to outline specific goals and guidelines for using these sites in a productive, educational way.

Once the right tools and structures are in place, social learning helps your employees better communicate and collaborate with each other and retain critical information, which in turn helps your organization function more effectively. So when you’re planning future training and development events, incorporate social learning into your strategic plan and watch employee engagement, morale and knowledge retention increase exponentially!