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How does Social Learning Benefit Your Workplace?

Blog posts | 23.06.2021

Steve Lowenthal

CEO - Kineo US at Kineo US

What is social learning?

Believe it or not, social networks existed long before My Space or even Facebook! Social learning happens every day and everywhere. However, the learning landscape has been changing, and the year 2020 only accelerated that process. With rapid digitization and virtual work, a majority of employees today can’t look over into their neighbour’s cubicle to ask them about a simple work question. They don’t get to go out on a coffee break and discuss issues or share knowledge and quick tips to get work done faster. These interactions improve relationships for sure, but they are also invaluable learning moments that are the lifeblood of organisations. In order for people to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, they need to learn & grow, be challenged to perform better, and reap the rewards of performing well. That’s what social learning is all about. It’s woven into the very fabric of our society!

The challenge for L&D is to determine how social learning can be crafted into a learning strategy.  This is true now more than ever with most of us working virtually. L&D folks need to debunk some of the myths about social learning and embrace the role of facilitator to reap the rewards of social learning in their organisation.

Steering clear of unrealistic expectations:

Necessity drives innovation, especially when people utilise creativity and problem-solving to get there. Here are some myths that need to be busted before getting to real-life solutions that work.

  • Myth #1: Social learning requires physical presence. Today, this is not a necessity like it had been in the past. Learners can observe, process and display new behaviour through reading, virtual interactions, tele-conferencing, hearing about their colleagues (reinforcement of behaviour through rewards, recognitions, virtual badges) and much more.

  • Myth #2: Requires expensive applications. Today a virtual social community can be built into your learning platform. There is no need to depend on social networking sites when you have a Kineo-Totara learning platform that can do much more than a public networking site. For example, employees can share experiences in a virtual space more freely using various chat and group messaging features; Silos can be eliminated by having everyone work on a common platform with embedded individual or group workspaces.

  • Myth #3: Social learning is informal and cannot be structured. While there is an element of the informal, technology and learning design can work together to give you an open yet moderated platform while facilitating social learning. Moderated forums ensure that inaccurate information sharing does not happen. In addition, these moderators can encourage those with expertise to respond and share their knowledge with others, which is often needed in the beginning life of a social platform to promote participation.

Social Learning Undercover:

Social Learning theory has many prominent theorist contributions, including Albert Bandura who brought in the idea that observation is not solely responsible for learning. Bandura believed that it is the cognitive processing of observed phenomena in relation to one’s own behaviour that leads individuals to alter their actions or learn new ways to perform. The newly learned behaviour can then be positively or negatively reinforced. Using social learning takes the user from an observer to an active participant, which is essential for true collaboration, innovation, and productivity to occur. By connecting employees through this approach, their behavior and habits will evolve and company culture will improve- often without the employee even realising it.

In the workplace social learning can happen under a number of guises such as:

1. Community of Practitioners: A team of people in similar roles, such as software developers or a team of analysts, work together and share best practices. At Kineo, we have a long-standing, expert Learning Design Community that can help you design effective learning teams that integrate seamlessly in a virtual and fluid workspace.

2. In the Minute Help: Sometimes even experienced teams face situations or issues they’ve never faced before. Having a connected common platform that can link cross-functionally across regional office locations is a goldmine of timely solutions. For example, we heard about an exterminator who came across a bug they couldn’t identify, so they took a picture and asked the community for help. Within minutes, the bug was identified along with best practices for exterminating them. Kineo’s platforms can connect your organisation across borders since the Kineo Totara Learning Suite is Open Source and can be accessed by your employees from anywhere, anytime.

3. Learning Culture: When employees ask team members for their feedback, a lot of learning and discussion can happen. For example: An employee posts a deliverable for review by peers across the organisation, prompting several side discussions. Using a community workspace to do this without apprehension is a sort of replacement for having your neighbouring co-worker glance through your work and offer feedback and/or advice. Integrating your learning platform with Microsoft Teams is one of the ways you can accomplish this. 

Social Learning Evidenced:

Market research reports such as the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that employees tend to resort to social media to solve issues they face. The obvious implication is that formal, routine training is no longer sufficient to equip employees to be high performers. The report states:

“Top companies are built around systems that encourage teams and individuals to meet each other, share information transparently, and move from team to team depending on the issue to be addressed.”

In effect, all high performance organisations create an environment where there is:

  • Shared values and culture
  • Transparent goals and projects
  • Free flow of information and feedback
  • People rewarded for their skills and abilities, not position

Such learning, behavioral modification and learning is undoubtedly the outcome of ‘social learning’ in its many guises, such as networking teams and a mature learning culture.

The 2019 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that a majority of learners want to have social learning in the workplace.

Figure 1
Learners want Social Learning in the workplace

High performance is associated with high levels of engagement and is an outcome of learning. 94% of these employees express that they are more likely to stay at companies that encourage social learning.

Another study conducted by the eLearning Guild revealed these top 10 social learning activities that can be facilitated by the L&D team.

Figure 2
Top 10 social learning activities that can be facilitated by the L&D team

Ready to get Social?

Using the right tools and techniques such as Kineo’s Learning Experience Platform that’s more collaborative in nature than a basic LMS can lift your L&D strategy to a whole new level. You can even consult with Kineo’s expert L&D design team to create a customised learning platform suited for your unique organisation. For example, you could use certain styles to get experts to speak up, share knowledge and answer questions – Forums, workshops, chats, integrating the learning environment with work management systems such as basecamp, slack, teams etc. to help facilitate social learning. Learners gain 90% of their skills, knowledge and abilities on the job and through social learning, so make the most of your L&D strategy and include social learning today.

Click here for your free Kineo guide to social learning.


Steve Lowenthal

CEO - Kineo US at Kineo US

Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.