You hear a lot about it in the training and development sphere, but what are the benefits of social learning? Let’s answer that question with another question – when you were at school, did you look forward to the end of your lunch hour? Was it hard to enjoy socialising when you knew you could have been sitting in a lesson?
If you answered ‘yes’ to either question, then you probably already know that you are in a minority. Our success as a species is largely due to our social nature, and we’re all hard-wired to crave human-interaction.
With that in mind, if your Learning Management System lacks a social element, then you’re in for an uphill struggle when it comes to engaging your employees. Let’s look at some of the advantages you can enjoy with social learning.
1. Training employees in work skills
For the first key benefit of social learning, we needn’t even look at the quality of your learning materials. When you turbo-charge your learning with social elements, you’re opening the door to a whole other dimension of possibility. Just by sharing the journey with other people, the students are learning a whole bunch of other skills without even realising it.
Aside from being really important, these secondary skills are pretty impossible to teach in any formal way. Take critical thinking as an example – on your own, you would need to read a dozen books to get an adequate level of understanding. Just by being in a group and bouncing ideas off of one another, the key practical methods of critical thinking embed themselves naturally.
2. Improving collaboration between employees
If you open up the Working Environments for Dummies book, you’ll find team-building on chapter one, page one; underlined, in big, bold, capital letters. You could employ ten experts with impressive qualifications and titles, but if they can’t work together as a team, you might as well have hired a troupe of juggling mimes.
Your training and development should set the standard for collaboration within your company. Not only that but you’ll develop a learning community that reinforces itself and lets you get that elusive 110% which is so amazing, it isn’t even mathematically possible!
3. Capturing Organisational Knowledge
It would be very arrogant to assume that your learners are blank slates. Although it’s important to focus on what your training program can teach your learners, you have to remain open to the possibility that your learners can teach a thing or two themselves.
You can’t harness the collective knowledge of your learners when you lock them away in their lonely little cupboards. If you want to unleash the genius in everyone, and encourage outside-the-box thinking, your LMS needs to include a social aspect.
4. Improving communication
We’ve already looked at the importance of communication in the work environment, but how can social learning help improve it? In a lot of ways, this depends on how your learning is structured, but in a more general sense, the very act of coming together collectively to learn something can kick-start a culture more focussed on effective communication. Just like the other side-effects of social learning, the boost in understanding is completely free! It’s just a natural thing that happens and, even if you wanted to, you couldn’t stop it!
5. Engaging Employees with their training
When you ask most people what pops into their head when they think of online learning, you pretty much have to wake them up again to get your answer. It’s no secret that online learning has a pretty poor reputation when it comes to engagement. This is because it’s a format that has traditionally relied on people shutting themselves away in front of a computer for a couple of hours with nothing but their own yawns for company.
Add a bit of social functionality to the LMS and the whole landscape changes. Now, you can see how your colleagues are doing, you can ask questions and congratulate each other. All of these points add up to a training programme that people actually want to use.
Getting a better return on investment
None of the other benefits mean anything without results. The bottom line of an effective training solution is engagement; after all, if nobody wants to use the LMS, they’ll never get anything out of it. Once you’ve unlocked collaborative learning, the very least you can expect is for your learners to understand the material. On top of that, you’ll have a multi-skilled group of team players who can’t help but share their knowledge with each other.
How do we know all of this? Well, our social learning platform focuses primarily on engagement and we’ve watched proudly as thousands of learners dance through the training process with big cheesy grins on their faces. If you want boost employee engagement in your training programme, download your own interactive Engagement Engine Workbook by clicking the button below.