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Social Learning: how to create a Corporate Culture.

Posted on September 23, 2017

Recently, people asked me to give a keynote speech on social learning and a debate afterwards. Two questions were prominent and remained unanswered for me that evening. I will try to elaborate on those questions in this blog.

When can we use social learning? Is our company’s culture ready for social learning?

Rethinking and discussing those with my partners, we found that both were closely related, and it was possible to answer by linking them to the ‘5 Moments of Need’ from Dr. Conrad Gottfredson.

We learn from this approach that in an organisational context, learners need to acquire knowledge in different stages of their career or to accomplish a task.

social learning

Acquisition of knowledge

The first and second Moments of Need align with the more traditional approaches to learning and training. People used them more than traditional ways of formal learning.

  • When learning for the first time
  • When you want to learn more

New social learning tools can make the learning journey more efficient and effective as they enable agile and versatile learning through Social Apps such as Yammer, Twitter or ESNs. What I have seen with some organisations are Social Learning tools to offer a blended and interactive learning approach alongside the formal training event, offering pre-work, extra tasks, quizzes, backchannels, forums, wikis and more.

Using this interactive approach where the learner takes the driving seat, we notice Jennings’ 70-20-10 model and that serendipity or accidental learning also applies. This lets you stimulate the total learning process.

employee scarcity restaurant

Social Learning: application of knowledge

The remaining three Moments of Need align directly with performance support. In these instances, social learning tools are powerful building blocks that can transform the way we enable learning and the application of knowledge in organisations:

  • When trying to apply and/or remember
  • When something goes wrong
  • When something changes

Most of what we need to know at work in the above Moments of Need can be acquired by participating in new ways of social learning.

Learning happens with and through other people when learners engage in networks where people co-create, collaborate and share knowledge freely without spatial, temporal or hierarchical boundaries.

Participating in the community is a matter of not just acquiring knowledge.

“Training often gives people solutions to problems already solved. Collaboration addresses challenges no one has overcome before.”

Marcia Conner

I’m not saying here that social learning will replace formal learning for the application of knowledge. Social apps and networks make learning and development Lean by focusing only on the direct benefit for the learner, taking into account time, methodology and transfer of learning.

Impact on Corporate Culture

Social learning builds a culture that makes learning fun, productive and commonplace.

However, launching an Enterprise Social Network will not make the culture shift.

Recently, I interviewed Peter Crombecq, the CEO of Digipolis and CIO of the City of Antwerp, and he explained how they implemented Yammer as their core communication, sharing and learning tool.

The adoption was a success only six months after introducing the new ESN. Learning and sharing became a part of their everyday routine. One of the main reasons for this success is C-level engagement.

As the CEO actively shares information, posts blogs, and answers questions from all co-workers, he sets an example and motivates others to follow.

At Digipolis, the management team knows the ‘Nielsen 90-9-1 rule.’

Through internal communication, people offer services to help edit the text before publishing due to fear of mistakes. Subject matter experts are found at all levels of the organisation. A positive performance management system is implemented to encourage introverts and extroverts to join the conversation in comfortable ways. Silo’s disappeared, and the informal hierarchy became almost flat!

To conclude, I believe that the culture of sharing and learning is inspired by leaders, enabled by technology and carried by all.