CRITICAL PATH II: Social Learning, by Laura Dillingham

Let’s look at one type of learning being employed in some companies, social business or as it’s most commonly called social learning. Social learning is a very old concept with a new name. It is basically employees learning about the organizational culture and many aspects of the job from each other. It is not the traditional classroom environment with a teacher-student relationship using materials that have been collected from subject matter experts. It doesn’t mean that businesses are not using some of these methods of teaching and learning, especially when it comes to specific areas, new concepts or practices, reducing risk or leadership development. But social learning is really on-the-job teaching and learning.

Why use social learning? This type of learning allows employees to develop, try new skills and to figure out the best methods to complete tasks. It encourages employees to work together, which increases communication, develops relationships and builds networks. It also allows the organization to set up opportunities for mentoring. However, this concept is much harder to put into practice than it appears. Organizations must review how they are structured, their talent pool and define outcomes. Human Resources must review jobs and may even have to come up with classifications and compensation.

Social learning is about looking at how employees learn and coming up with new methods of delivery. When you look at history, however, this is one of the oldest forms of learning. Do employees need to learn a lot of well-defined concepts in the workplace? Yes, they do. And will they need to have some existing knowledge before they can fully participate? Yes, they will. But it will be critical they understand that just because the traditional way of learning and/or studying with books may be changing, learning and acquiring on-going knowledge has just begun.



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