Training in the 21st Century

Reap the Benefits of Social Learning in Your Organization

Social Learning is the term for a new solution to an old problem: how to capture, vet and disseminate the amazing knowledge that people carry around in their heads? When people work in the same location, they learn from each other in a variety of informal ways:

  • Observation and modeling
  • Casual conversations at the water cooler— where a moment of venting about a tough problem can offer an unexpected solution
  • A purposeful trip across the room or down the hall to the resident “expert,” whose store of valuable knowledge, and readiness to share it, is well-known within the organization.

This kind of knowledge sharing benefits organizations and employees in several ways. The most direct benefit is that work gets done faster and more efficiently as people pass on tips or demonstrate best practices that shave minutes, hours and even days from a project. Less direct, but equally important, is the impact on the organization’s culture and morale. Most people like to help others, and it’s a demonstration of respect to seek someone’s knowledge and experience. Organizations with knowledge sharing cultures reap benefits not only of increased efficiency and effectiveness, but of improved commitment and connectedness when people’s psychological needs are met through their work experiences.

With people now working remotely and from different regions and time zones, informal social learning has become more complicated, though in some ways it has become more important than ever.  People can feel more isolated and disconnected under these conditions, and access to the knowledge of co-workers can shrink to a very small pool of people working in a local office. This is one of the reasons Social Learning has become such an important topic for corporate training today.

Incorporating a wide range of social media technologies, social learning strategies create ways to connect people and encourage knowledge sharing. It can be something as simple as posting a shared document in which people can share their knowledge and experience on a specific topic, with contact information to encourage more in-depth exchanges. Desktop sharing technologies enable people to help each other from anywhere in the world. And video cameras not only help people know each other a little better, they can also be used to demonstrate a technique or process, with posted videos that expand the number of people who can learn from these exchanges. Internal blogs and wikis offer rich resources for creating repositories of shared knowledge created by and available to all employees.

For trainers, social media technologies open new possibilities and new responsibilities. As moderators of these repositories, trainers can ensure that the shared knowledge, practices and policies represent “best practices.” In addition, by tracking the topics and information, trainers will gain important insights into new formal training programs needed by the organization, as well as identify those that need to be changed.

To learn more about our Social Learning strategies and explore how your organization can benefit, contact us at or 415-400-4380.

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One Comment

  1. Jeff ColosimoOctober 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Social learning is great and transforming the way knowledge is transferred and shared, especially as more social media and networks come about that enable sharing information easier and more readily.

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