There are 4.20 billion active social media users in the world today. That’s roughly 53.6% of the global population. Research shows that anywhere between 42% and 63% of social media use relates to learning, finding new ways to do things, and searching for relevant information. Social learning efficiency is undeniable because social media permeates every aspect of our lives, especially learning. And that makes it a key tool in the hands of L&D teams.
In a survey of L&D professionals, on the use of social learning, 57% of those responding affirmed that social learning in the workplace is an essential element to their L&D strategy. 65% of that same cohort say they planned to apply social learning theory in the workplace, as part of their learning strategy, within the next two years. Clearly, social and collaborative learning in the workplace is fast becoming the norm. However, they can’t be effective unless organisations deal with bottlenecks that stifle their efficacy.
What are Social Learning Pathways?
Just as a well-lit pathway to an unfamiliar destination leads new visitors quickly and safely to where they want to go, social Learning Pathways accomplish the same objective in a heavily crowded social learning ecosystem. Learning pathways are a curated pool of those related resources that have been logically grouped together. This ensures employees have expeditious access to individual and institutional knowledge to gain mastery on a particular subject, course, or topic. Well-defined pathways deliver the benefits of social learning in the workplace.
Social learning is about learning from others, and is an extremely efficient way to foster learning across an organisation. Commenting on effectiveness of this phenomenon, Professor Albert Bandura, Canadian-American psychologist and Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford, wrote:
“…learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action...”
Social learning efficiency is about listening to others, watching what they do – and how, learning from them and modelling positive behavioural traits based on that learning. It depends on both internally-generated (company-specific) and publicly accessible resources. Why curate your content? Consider these stats:
● There are over a billion websites on the internet today
● Every day sees more than 3 million new blogs and posts generated
● Google processes more than 1.2 trillion searches each year
● Each day, the search giant fields an average of 40,000 queries
● Over the next few years, web content is expected to increase by 500%
Unless your organisation learns to leverage social learning theory in the workplace, how will your employees navigate that tsunami of information and turn it into knowledge? Unless you collate, categorise and curate what’s important, employees will not turn data into information, and information into knowledge.
The power of social learning efficiency lies in its ability to facilitate the sifting through millions of petabytes (that’s a number, followed by 15-zeros!) of data to find a few megabytes of information. And, by not implementing social learning in the workplace, that’s a huge task for already overworked and overstressed employees.
Why are social learning pathways important?
Learning pathways are a cornerstone of social learning in the workplace. They create structure around social learning and optimise the time of busy learners and trainers. With well-defined pathways in place, there’s no guessing where learning resources are, what to look for, how to access them, or which ones are most appropriate. These pathways eradicate social learning bottlenecks – learners simply follow the pathways to get what they need.
Defining pathways is a great way to encourage guided learning, while also minimising the potential of learner distractions – it reduces the chances of employees getting side-tracked while searching for relevant learning content.
By collating and sequencing a set of learning resources, L&D professionals can set personalised learning goals for each learner. Pathways act as breadcrumbs for learners to follow, beginning at learning discovery, and culminating at mastering the subject.
How do you set up learning pathways to facilitate social learning?
There are considerable amounts of social learning resources available online, including YouTube channels, Facebook pages, LinkedIn posts, Twitter feeds, Blogs and Wikis. Such content might emanate internally, from managers, peers or colleagues; or they might originate from external parties, industry leaders or competitor businesses. These can serve as powerful learning tools, but only if L&D professionals structure their access and use as part of a cohesive and effective social learning strategy. But effective access requires providing a deliberate path to that content - not simply linking to a resource or referencing it in passing.
If you are wondering how to make social learning effective, then look no further than building efficient learning pathways. Once you remove bottlenecks from the system, there are multiple opportunities to create social learning efficiency and use these learning pathways to enhance the effectiveness of your learning programmes:
● Use pathways, within social learning in the workplace, to help streamline the employee onboarding process by providing standard intake training processes to newcomers
● Use dedicated learning pathways to foster continuous learning across the organisation. As part of your strategy to implement social and collaborative learning in the workplace, these pathways might include training resources for policy and procedural updates, compliance and regulatory requirements, and the latest technique and technology developments
● Build guided learning pathways to the corporate intranet and external (supplier, distributor, trainer, etc.) internet resources. The pathways offer structured employee access to a curated set of learning resources about new products and services, marketing tools, and productivity-enhancing systems and processes
● Unleash the benefits of social learning in the workplace by developing role-specific learning pathways to ensure your employees become more productive, faster, in their assigned roles
There is no limit to how, when, or where organisations can make use of social learning theory in the workplace. As part of a well-thought-out social learning strategy, creating curated pathways to social learning resources can help make workplace learning more efficient and effective. If there’s training, education, and learning involved, anywhere across the organisation, chances are that a personalised learning pathway can be designed and implemented to meet those needs.
What are learning bottlenecks, and how do they occur?
Learning bottlenecks occur as a result of blocker or barriers within your learning system that prevent learners from fully realising the potential of the learning tools and resources you’ve invested in. Here are some examples:
● A project lead has years of institutional knowledge saved across shared devices, drives, and folders – as well as on the corporate network – but only he/she knows what’s where, and where’s what! This “trapped knowledge” creates a bottleneck for others, across the company, to access that institutional learning
● You’ve invested millions of dollars in corporate cloud storage services to leverage the efficiency of social learning – anywhere, anytime and by anyone wanting to access corporate learning resources. Each department manages and administers its departmental knowledge bases. Unfortunately, you are unable to benefit from social learning efficiency. Why? Because, when someone from the Sales department needs some vital information to close a deal, they can’t navigate through the complex structure of the Marketing department’s domain
● Centralised learning management is yet another impediment to social learning in the workplace. Your overworked HR department and Training Leads are custodians of all of your corporate training resources – and therefore, constitute a learning chokepoint! Learners can’t easily find what they want, and trainers are too busy to take the time to show them the ropes
By not properly using social learning at work, L&D teams allow these bottlenecks to impede the process of learning across the organisation. Although everyone might have access to the shared resources (in theory!), complex navigation and confusing access paths act as bottlenecks that preclude them from doing so.
What impact can bottlenecks have on social learning efficiency?
Like bottlenecks in every system, social learning bottlenecks can produce social learning inefficiencies that reduce the effectiveness of corporate learning systems. Talented employees, who might have a wealth of personal and institutional knowledge, aren’t able to share what they know. People, who need that knowledge most, are unable to access it at the right time, or quickly enough. Those that try to navigate to a specific digital learning resource, often give up part way in frustration.
Bottlenecks breed social learning inefficiency. So, what’s the answer to addressing the issue? Social Learning Pathways.
In organisations that depend on social learning, social learning bottlenecks typically occur when there’s an over-reliance on a handful of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This breeds social learning inefficiency. Bottlenecks may also develop as a result of siloed institutional knowledge bases that, although shared across the organisation, are difficult to access and challenging to navigate. This too prevents the company from tapping into the benefits of social learning in the workplace. Creating logically structured learning programmes, with well-laid out social learning pathways is a great way to alleviate learning bottlenecks.
For more information on enabling social learning pathways in your organisation, take a look at Kineo's learning platform solutions. Our robust and flexible learning technology can help you grow knowledge among all roles and specialties. In fact, it's been named as one of Training Industry's Top Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) for 2021.