Social Learning in the Business Context
Employees and work teams are one of any business’s competitive advantages, maybe even the most important one. Employees are the ones that carry out the work, achieve goals and objectives, and ensure that all work tasks are accomplished with the utmost quality.
Happy and well-trained employees reflect on the business itself and its values, and is a direct message to the customers who believe that an organisation that takes care of its employees will definitely take care of the quality of its products and services, and thus, the satisfaction of it customers and/or clients.
That’s why, many business owners have taken to the training and development of their employees, to ensure that they have the necessary skills and abilities to perform their work with the highest quality, and to ensure their development and growth within the business itself.
However, training operations are usually expensive, with the arrangement of trainers, training materials, and training venues, to name a few, not to mention that it is time and effort consuming and the results aren’t always very clear.
As a result, many businesses today have shifted their training and development operations towards a new concept, or rather an old one, “Social Learning”.
Social Learning Theory basically implies that people learn from one another, through observation, imitation, and modeling. It is the continuous process of learning from other people through observing them, asking questions, and sharing knowledge resources.
Social Learning is a very old concept, probably one of the oldest, and one of its pioneers and contributors is Albert Bandura, who said that: “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”
As for Social Learning in the business context, it has become the informal way through which employees and colleagues learn from each other, particularly through the always-developing social technologies; such as: blogs, wikis, discussion forums, subject-matter directories, and videos.
Businesses and learning share one very important aspect, which is that they are both social activities; that’s why, applying Social Learning as a training and learning technique in the workplace was a natural and much needed occurrence.
In other words, a business or a workplace is essentially a social structure, bringing together people from different backgrounds, cultures, and classes together, which was why businesses experimenting with Social Learning was essential, especially due to the current social networks and technologies that are constantly developing.
Since its application as a training technique, Social Learning has proved to be quite successful, and more businesses are leaning towards applying it in their workplaces as the time goes by.
Social Learning is a natural process that takes place in any workplace through the daily interactions between employees and colleagues who have to work together and share knowledge; however, it is preferred to have other supporting tools to enhance and monitor social learning to ensure that the learning objectives are properly met.
Consequently, social networks and technologies play a huge role as tools that support Social Learning in any organisation; such as: Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, to name a few.
Moreover, Social Learning has numerous benefits for any business, some of which include:
Social Learning is more time and effort saving than any other type of training. Regular trainings require employees to interrupt their work to attend these trainings, not to mention that their retention of what they learn cannot be guaranteed, in addition to the extra time and costs related to planning such training programs and travelling to and from training venues.
On the other hand, Social Learning is on-the-spot training where employees share knowledge when required and what is learned is applied right away; thus, ensuring the retention of the knowledge gained, as well as saving time, cost, and effort as employees ask each other and learn from each other, while never having to leave the workspace or interrupting their work tasks for long periods of time.
As opposed to regular training which is limited with a certain time, employees will always continue to learn more and gain more knowledge for as long as they live. Because, as long as they continue to work, they will continue to interact with more people, communicate with them, and learn from them.
Better Communication and Collaboration:
Social Learning appeals more to the human nature, where humans need to feel as part of a group, as well as their need to communicate and interact with others, and Social Learning helps to achieve this through giving employees the opportunity to continuously support and learn from each other, while at the same time feeling that they are part of a greater whole which is working to achieve the same goals and objectives.
Moreover, Social Learning facilitates communication, ensures that all communication within the workplace is clear, and avoids misunderstanding, as many meanings can get lost through other methods of communication; such as: emails and text messages, however, face-to-face communication that is encouraged by Social Learning minimizes the occurrence of such events.
In the end, and to summarize Social Learning, Adam Richardson said: “Social Learning as we know is not something that happens just when social media is involved, we learn socially all the time in pretty much everything we do. What we actually need to do is to support natural social learning better in the workplace.”
Written by Yasmine Mokhtar