For a while now there has been ‘chat’ about social learning as an approach to workplace L&D. There’s also a suspicion that woven into this catchphrase was some expectation around social platforms, social media and the like - and perhaps an unspoken assumption that it offers a cheap solution to the training challenge.
But what do we really really mean by ‘social’ in the context of learning at work? Will it be appropriate to your workplace, to the employees, to the how the organisation operates and its culture? And if so, what’s the best way to go about it?
Where are you on the social scale?
So here at Kineo we’ve put our heads together and come up with what we call ‘learner power’. We depict this concept as a four-stage continuum that reflects the extent to which employees are empowered or motivated to direct their own learning and move from formal training model to more informal and social ways of learning, ie learning with other people whether that’s face-to-face or online (using social platforms, for instance).
Horses for courses
Social learning isn’t for everyone. Nor is it appropriate for all workplace learning. Compliance training for example. Social learning tends to assume an element of self-direction and self- determination, not characteristics normally associated with compliance!
Ironically perhaps, compliance training would be all the better for being social because the content would be better embedded in the psyche of employees. But we have to be realistic and recognise that for many employees and employers it’s a necessary task, a box ticked on the audit trail of conformance and a reduction of risk and exposure to the business. Therefore it is compulsory formal training that needs to be tracked and recorded as completed.
Learner power does not say that a more social approach is necessarily a better approach; social is simply a different approach, and learner power is a tool for self-analysis, a steer as to which social solution may be the best fit for your organisation and an indication of the sort of timescales involved.
More questions than answers
When and whether or not to go social is partly a cultural call. Is now the right time? Is the organisation ready? Are the employees ready for this shift from formal to informal, from prescribed to self-directed? Away from a parent/child expectation? How long should we allow for social to take-off and become the norm?
It makes sense to use technology, social platforms and social media but not to assume that just because people use them liberally and instinctively outside work, they’ll make the switch overnight.
Four kinds of social adoption
If you consider learner power within your organisation you’re much more likely to succeed - because having a sense of where you actually are on the continuum helps you shape how your social learning is delivered now and in the future. The learner power continuum gives you the chance to identify yourself in one of four broad models (or somewhere on a pathway between one and another, perhaps).
Ask yourself …
Learner Power encourages a pause for thought about where you’re at and where you want to get to against these four stages on the continuum. It helps you plan, for example to feed and seed a social learning community site for several months, arrange and support a discrete community of trailblazers, champions, experts and opinion leaders, analyse the data and curate accordingly - hoping that this level of TLC will bear fruit as the social approach flourishes of its own accord! Genuine self-perpetuating, self-regulating online social learning might take a while to take root but the pay-off could be amazing.
At the end of the day ‘social’ will, by definition, stand or fall on whether its employees make it happen. Having a sense of learner power simply improves the odds.
Where are you on the continuum? Take our quick quiz to find out!