Social Learning In the Workplace: Why It Is Effective?

For decades, pedagogists have been researching on social learning and how the lessons from their research studies can be incorporated at schools and other institutions for learning. However, one of the larger tangential beneficiaries of the social learning research has been in management. According to a survey conducted by the HR management software company SilkRoad, nearly 47% of the surveyed companies had already deployed or were in the process of deploying social learning at the workplace. In terms of financial investment, social learning was the second most popular tool among companies.

Besides learning, another area where social learning has been making rapid strides at the workplace is in enhancing employee motivation and productivity. Traditionally, motivation was enhanced primarily through a rewards program which paid employees incentives in the form of bonuses and promotions commensurate to their productivity. However, the latest studies on social learning have shown that rewards are not the only means to achieve this. Vicarious learning; which involves observing the people in our neighborhood and learning from them are also valuable social learning tools to enable higher motivation and productivity.

Albert Bandura, one of the eminent cognitive psychology researchers of the 20th century, proposed a Social Cognitive Theory in the 1980s which proposed the deployment of cognitive, behavioral, personal and environmental factors to aid in the motivation and behavior of people. The theory advocates the creation of “models” that the target can look up to and whose actions will influence their own behavior and actions. A common example of SCT is the use of “mentors” to train new recruits at workplaces. These mentors are employees who have been in the workplace system long enough to have adapted to the organizational culture. These mentors act as ‘models’ who the new recruits look up to and learn to imitate from.

Another example of SCT at workplace is what is regarded as “on the job learning”. Unlike earlier times when new recruits were made to go through weeks or months of training, a lot of companies today place the employees directly in the firing line at work. Doing so helps these recruits to vicariously learn from the experiences of their mentors and other employees. The learning is seen to be much more effective and efficient this way. Social learning is an institutionalized practice at a lot of workplaces today. Enterprise software applications like NetSuite include features like employee skillset management and training plan management to ensure better monitoring and tracking of the social learning programs.

Social learning is all about collaboration and learning as part of a community. Given that American companies spend nearly $706 on training every new recruit, it makes great business sense for these fresh recruits to be trained through a social learning system that not only adds directly to the bottom line of the company but also drastically reduces the cost involved in making these recruits employable.

Has your company deployed social learning at workplace? Tell us your experience in the comments below.

Author Bio : Harini Rao is an educator and writer with over 8 years of experience. She consults a number of small and medium businesses on their employee learning programs.