Peter Henschel’s influential work on “The Seven Principles of Learning” showed that employees do between 70-90 percent of learning informally. That is, outside of traditional training or courses. Time and time again, knowledge sharing, mentorship, and informal conversation are where employees pick up lessons, skills, and experience.
The reason most employees learn informally is simple: it’s how they prefer to learn. In a worldwide study, 90 percent of employees identify social knowledge sharing as essential or important compared to only 31 percent who say the same about formal classroom training.
Sales teams have particular challenges when it comes to informal knowledge sharing. These challenges include time, the competitive nature of being in sales that may prevent reps from sharing their ‘tribal knowledge,’ and sales reps working in isolation.
So how can companies ensure that this informal learning between sales peers is encouraged, effective, and leads to positive outcomes? By harnessing social learning theory to encourage knowledge sharing.
Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory, a concept developed by Albert Bandura, brings together theories of behavioral learning and cognitive learning. We learn not only from observing others, but also by observing the context within which that behavior occurs. We are also capable of examining the consequences of that behavior.
From a sales perspective, a new employee may learn techniques by observing or listening to a senior sales rep, and they will also learn the context in which these were employed and their outcomes. Through social learning, the new employee is likely to learn valuable lessons and skills they can implement throughout their career.
Incorporating Social Learning into Your Company
What steps can your company take to promote social learning internally? Employees should be empowered and encouraged to share knowledge and seek out knowledge from their colleagues. In this way, employee engagement is an important part of any successful social learning implementation.
An internal knowledge sharing platform should encourage social learning. Within the platform, there should be knowledge sharing tools and techniques such as comments, discussions, ratings, and employee-generated content. The additional use of these tools help encourage social participation and collaboration of company information and the growth of shared knowledge.
More and more, employees are expecting to use technology and social tools to communicate, professionally and personally. By employing a company knowledge sharing platform and fostering a culture of social learning, you can help overcome the challenges experienced by sales teams and improve company-wide outcomes.