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While training and employee development usually brings a big conference room and never-ending lectures to mind, learning doesn’t have to involve a formal setting that employees end up dreading. In fact, 80 percent of learning happens informally, but that doesn’t mean social learning doesn’t need structure or purpose, notes learning expert Bill Cushard on Human Capitalist.

“To implement social learning successfully, HR and other leaders need to be specific and deliberate about how they design it,” Cushard says. “The good news is that a social theory of learning provides a design framework that can guide how to implement social learning in an organization — no matter what technology is in play.”

A social theory of learning involves four trade-offs, says Cushard:

Participation vs. Reification

Conversation and available resources make up the elements essential for successful social learning and provide a balance between participation and reification. “One thing to consider when implementing social learning is to make sure you give people the ability to both participate in conversations and to access, share, and create resources.”

Designed vs. Emergent

“You can design social learning, but participants must have the power to decide where to take things, and management should avoid the impulse to control that.”

Identification vs. Negotiability

“In social learning, people should be able to decide for themselves their level of participation, role they want to play, and what value the social learning topic has for them. Management shouldn’t try to overly define roles and participation levels.”

Local vs. Global

“Users should be able to create private, subject-specific groups in their enterprise social network, but if they start to believe that too many groups outside of the ones they are specifically assigned to are closed to them, the organization won’t likely realize the full benefit of social learning.” 

Read the full article here.