For many employees, learning at work often occurs through informal learning driven by interactions and conversations with coworkers. In fact, research has found that 75% of the informal learning that occurs in the workplace is due to this type of social learning.

Social learning occurs whenever employees consult or interact with peers, friends, and experts either in person or online to gain new knowledge. Peers also offer natural accountability to one another. Social learning is a key component of nudging people to learn and an effective way to influence behavior change.

Moreover, social learning has a more subtle, but powerful influence. Social cognitive theory states that people don’t learn or change behaviors in a vacuum, but are influenced by the social environment and behaviors of those around them. The power of observing and modeling peers can help individuals change their behavior. In particular, if rewards are introduced, employees may choose to copy the desired behavior. Social learning improves learning retention while reducing training costs.

There’s also a clear connection between social learning and employee engagement. Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives are already a top driver of engagement, but the constant and continuous nature of social learning amplify the opportunities for employees to participate and benefit.

Social learning has also increased with the proliferation of social media tools and online discussion forums that allow employees to easily connect online with peers and experts for advice. In a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, researchers discovered employees who were connected to their peers via internal social platforms were more engaged and productive.

How can you create an environment where social learning flourishes? Here are four ideas.

4 ways to leverage social learning

1. Start cohort-based training

Cohort-based training is a form of social learning that allows cohorts to hold each other accountable as well as model each other as they implement what they learned. In addition, a new manager cohort can connect regularly online post-training through an internal social platform or monthly lunch meetings to help each other apply what they learned on the job.

2. Encourage peers to call each other in

Peers can call each other in (vs. calling out) either privately or publicly in a respectful manner. One way to encourage this type of behavior is through role-playing sessions where employees can practice calling each other in in real-life scenarios. Listening to peers in this way offers repetitive learning and can help employees remember to change unwanted behavior such as being biased in the workplace or interrupting colleagues in meetings.

As long as employees speak up in a respectful manner that assumes good intent, this public behavior can be an opportunity for learning.

3. Provide online social resources

Forums created before, during, and after the training build momentum and keep the conversation alive on topics like unconscious bias. When employees share their perspective or what they’ve just experienced with their peers, this creates a platform for discussion and social learning. Internal social media platforms for teams to connect and collaborate can also help employees work and learn out loud. Word of mouth and sharing knowledge they’ve learned or interesting articles by peers is another avenue for social learning.

You can also use an internal best practices blog or wiki to capture transferable knowledge. Employees can update sections so that you have a central place where information is stored. Peers can also create online courses to share with peers. That way, even when someone leaves your organization, other employees can continue to benefit from the knowledge they shared.

Workplace by Facebook is a communication and collaboration platform that transforms how businesses and teams work together. The Udemy for Business integration with Workplace by Facebook is a new feature that allows employees to easily share Udemy for Business courses with their Workplace groups and colleagues. Whether it’s a programming course that will help the team complete a project or a course on an how to give feedback effectively, sharing learning via Workplace is another way to promote social learning within your organization.

4. Assign accountability partners

Partners can be assigned during or after the training to help employees nudge each other to apply what they learned and change their behavior. Partners can make a commitment to a particular action or step that they’re going to take, and create a plan to follow up with each other on their progress. This partnering system can also help employees observe and model each other.

In order to create an effective social learning environment, look for ways to encourage group interaction, reminders/nudges, discussion, and accountability. Take advantage of the power of social learning and observe the impact it has on your employees’ learning and retention of new behaviors.

To learn more about how Udemy customer Lyft used social learning to launch a groundbreaking unconscious bias training, download a copy of the L&D Behavior Change Toolkit here.

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