How Effective Team Training Is Powered by Social Learning

effective_team_training“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” – Albert Badura

Many leaders are increasingly frustrated by the time and money wasted on traditional types of training. These seminars, workshops, and webinars, while packed with helpful information, rarely lead to tangible results. If you lead a team, finding the best way for your team to be fully engaged in what they are learning should be a priority. Which is why many organizations are looking at social learning as the real powerhouse behind effective team training.

Although the term is relatively new, social learning has been a powerful vehicle for human progress throughout history. According to ideas proposed by learning experts, such as psychologist Albert Bandura, we learn primarily via interaction and shared experience. 

One increasingly popular example of a social learning forum is YouTube. YouTube users upload their own content, on a topic of their choosing, and the content’s credibility is mainly determined by the popularity and rating of the video from those within the community. This highlights a key difference—social learning is self-regulatory. (Interestingly, an article from Wegner and Trayner comments on how some online communities mirror aspects of Communities of Practice). 

Why social learning engenders effective team training…

One advantage of social learning is that it stimulates attention and motivates action. It’s very difficult to learn information when you don’t find it interesting. The social element adds a degree of pressure and increases our focus. There is also typically some kind of social reward that goes along with our learning, which further motivates us. 

Another advantage of social learning is that learners retain more, and for longer. In traditional learning environments, there is often a lack of information retention evident after only a few days. Social learning encourages practical learning in working environments and allows learners to actively pull knowledge from experts within the organizations instead of having knowledge pushed on them (which leads to less retention).

Social learning is integral to building a community that develops organically from a common concern who collectively use their skills and knowledge to build trust and share solutions. (Community of Practice is one effective form of Social Learning Spaces).The communities that result from social learning establish a system for troubleshooting, problem-solving, research and development, and innovation. There is no better way to ensure engagement from each member of your team!

3 Ways to Introduce Social Learning Into Your Effective Team Training Program

Foster a teaching/learning atmosphere

The principle tenet of social learning is the power of learning by example. Every organization has people that are more experienced than others in various areas. Educate your team by giving them channels where the experts on your team regularly and freely share their knowledge and where questions are encouraged. 

We live in a society that fosters rugged individualism…every man for himself…play your cards close to your chest…knowledge is power, so don’t give it away for free. These attitudes push productivity at the cost of being team players. It takes humility and patience to create a learning/teaching atmosphere, but the rewards to your organization will be innumerable.

Create systems, such as forums and message boards, for collaboration and learning

A great way to encourage your team to share their knowledge is via shared tools that support collaboration. Create a social learning space that has a good infrastructure to provide your team with the tools they need to collaborate effectively in real-time. 

These channels can be easily created and maintained online. It should be a space where participants can ask questions and receive answers from within the organization. It can also be a good idea to encourage users to rate answers by their educational value. Another way to quickly get a new member up to speed is the use of an inter-organizational wikipedia as a source of specific, helpful information. 

Reward participation and progress

You can’t force someone to learn, but you can make it as easy and rewarding as possible. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to stay connected in a social way, as you inspire and give your team a reason to remain engaged. When you make it your company policy to communicate openly, extend sincere praise often and give constructive feedback, your team will flourish, wanting to give you their best efforts.

There’s no doubt that social learning is a powerful way to improve the effectiveness of your organization. Nothing can replace the process of asking questions and testing solutions on actual problems in real-time. 

Are you intrigued to learn how you can introduce more effective team training, through social learning spaces, into your organization? Whether you’re leading teams of hundreds or have one employee only, the principles of social learning will work for you! I invite you to sign up for my free email series: Social Learning Spaces for Teams.  You’ll find clear, actionable tips in each short email. Once you implement each tip, I’d love to hear your thoughts, successes and challenges. You can reply to the email or connect with me via LinkedIn or Facebook

Community of practice, Team Leadership Skills

Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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