It wasn’t long ago that companies offered a long onboarding process that included formal training sessions and significant ramp up time before an employee really got started in their job. My father, for example, went through a six-week training session before he could even begin his sales position within the financial services industry.
Today, the learning environment has changed dramatically. And from my standpoint, thank goodness. When I join a company, I don’t want classroom instruction – I want to start doing what I was hired to do. Beyond this need to simply jump in, I think formal training has diminished for a few other reasons:
- We’re more distributed across the globe than ever before.
- We can leverage technologies we didn’t have previously.
- We are increasingly mobile. Employees aren’t necessarily sitting at the same desk in the same office every day.
Social learning addresses each of these three areas, allowing employees to guide their own learning in the environment they’re already in.
What Is Social Learning?
In simple terms, social learning is the process of sharing knowledge, information, and ideas and socializing them across teams and organizations. A water cooler can foster social learning. Two people meet, share ideas, and walk away a little more knowledgeable in the process. The downside to this is that this only benefits the two people involved in the discussion. How can we systemize this process of sharing knowledge across teams or organizations? That’s where social learning software comes in.
How Does Social Learning Software Work?
Social learning software acts as a repository of information and a tool with which to share it. A good social learning platform will allow users to find the information they need in real time, no matter where they’re located. The software typically has features that allow you to:
- Upload content, ideas, and information in any format.
- Easily find the information contained in the system.
- Develop and manage communities and groups.
- Share information across groups and with social tools outside of the company.
- Encourage comments on content.
- Curate content.
- Analyze and measure content and usage.
Analysts estimate that only about 10-20 percent of learning takes place in a formal environment with a traditional learning management systems. More and more companies are finding the values of a robust social learning tool that enables employees to learn in the flow of their regular work.