Develop a Social Learning Culture at Work …

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.
-Jack Welch

The culture at work plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of social learning. By carefully guiding and monitoring the work environment, you will be able to create a culture of learning. The goal is to create an environment where it is safe to share and a passion for sharing and learning permeates the atmosphere. Always remember that the culture is modeled by leadership.

Safe to Share Environment
If people do not feel they are safe sharing information, they will keep their knowledge and ideas to themselves. Safe environments are not overly critical. All criticism must be constructive in order for it to be effective.

Tips for constructive criticism:

  • Avoid personal criticism.
  • Use a professional tone and language.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Allow people to respond to criticism.

Encourage all people to share and respond to each other constructively. A few ground rules should encourage civil behavior.

Instilling a Passion for Learning
Effective social learning groups have members with a passion for learning. Leadership plays an important role in instilling this passion by modeling it. If a leader approaches learning like it is a chore, this is how employees will perceive learning situations. Anyone in leadership needs to make a personal passion for learning evident. This will inspire others to learn.

Ways to inspire learning:    

  • Encourage employees to share their passions.
  • Support employees in their passions.
  • Provide tools to support learning.

By inspiring learning, social groups will actively engage in the learning process.

Instill a Sense of Sharing
As we have already established, the company culture needs to encourage sharing and learning. Making the learning environment safe will help encourage sharing. It is also important to motivate people to share their knowledge and ideas. People can be possessive of their ideas, afraid that someone will steal them. The best way to combat this fear is to remind members of the group that they are a team. Collaborating with others is beneficial. People who share ideas gain valuable feedback that improves ideas and leads to better learning practices.

Learning in the Social Unit
Social units grow into small communities, and they have natural conflicts and resolutions that affect learning. In social units, learning is collaborative. The group needs to create social norms. These norms include roles and responsibilities, communication, levels of trust, and the purpose of the group. Setting basic guidelines for learning and behavior may be necessary for the social unit in the beginning. Self-motivation and effective communication are essential to the learning process. Through dialogue and constructive criticism, new ideas develop based on the prior knowledge of the participants. Reaching this level of dialogue takes time.

Case Study

The CEO of Weather Time Inc. decided that his group would benefit from Emotional Intelligence classes. He was surprised when he was expected to attend as well. The CEO would wander in late and text on his phone during the sessions. In the discussion, he was dismissive and ridiculed people if he did not see the merit of their ideas. He noticed that the participants did not have the passion that he hoped to see. Halfway through the course, he berated the entire group for not taking learning seriously. He said that turnover would increase if they did not change their attitudes.