Indian Leadership Academy

Social Learning: The Need of the Hour in L&D

Social learning, as a concept is simply understood as learning by observation. We as human beings observe other people with the intent of adapting one’s behaviour in social contexts. While it is usually associated with learning specific content, it is actually a process that we naturally use subconsciously in our everyday life.

In the context of learning and development (L&D), professionals working in this space are familiar with the 70-20-10 model. The model states that the individual learning should be sourced from 10% formal education events such as courses or books, 20% social learning, and 70% on-the-job application.

As per this model, formal learning events should constitute only a small percentage of a learner’s education. However, learning professionals often end up spending the majority of their time and training budget on such events.

Businesses often deviate from best practices to track and report on training programs. Talking about the reports/statistics, it often only shows how many people completed a course or how satisfied they felt about the experience. In this instance, they did not learn how to apply it in their daily work. 

Measuring the application of concepts is much more complex and challenging. Learning programs with social and application components are less likely to be invested in by businesses if they cannot easily measure the results. There are also difficulties managing and maintaining the social and application learning components due to a lack of financial or human resources.
As a result of this practice, many learners are not able to connect what they hear in a course and what they do every day — rendering the course ineffective. If components of a program extend beyond 10%, the focus typically shifts directly to application despite social learning being an instrumental phase in the model.
Social learning is defined in various ways depending on the organization. In this context, social learning is any activity where one person learns from another. We see this emerging in mentor and coaching relationships in workplace communities or program cohorts. When used effectively, social learning acts as a link between what participants learn in a course and its application in their respective roles.

One can implement social practices in their learning programs by including brainstorming, forming learning groups, sharing internet resources, stimulate exchange, knowledge sharing, amongst peer group via, informal chat sessions, hearing from others’ experiences, asking questions and troubleshooting in a safe space. By sharing what they know builds their confidence in that topic.

Learning in these ways with others helps to solidify the behaviours that enable workers to put the skills into practice swiftly.
As humans, the need and desire to have connections with others is of prime importance. This connection helps to link what they know, what they’ve learned and what they need to know to do even better. If you can create experiences that help them to do that, you will be tapping into their core needs.
Social Learning has become more important than ever, and we must act upon the need and importance of creating deliberate channels for implementing the concept to connect learners with experts.