The Social Learning Theory states that an individual’s behavior is heavily influenced by observing others. Simply, by observing the other person’s behavior, attitude, and the outcome of that behavior, an individual learns how to behave in a given situation, depending on the consequences observed.
Social learning identifies four factors that trigger it:
The Bobo doll experiment
Albert Bandura, the psychologist who created this theory conducted an experiment in relation to this theory - The Bobo Doll experiment. The experiment involved both children and adults. The doll was actually an inflatable clown named Bobo. The children watched adults and their behaviors toward the Bobo Doll. They would either treat it passively or violently.
What the children witnessed ultimately had an influence on their own interactions with the Bobo Doll. If the child witnessed violent behavior, they would imitate it both verbally and physically, while those who witnessed passive behavior treated their doll in a similar manner.
The conclusion made by Bandura was that children learn their social behaviors through the process of observation.
One of the most interesting applications of social learning theory, however, is its applicability in the workplace.
Social Learning in Organizations
There is a reason that social learning is a major buzzword in the L&D community.
Traditional Learning practices have been mostly centered around classroom training sessions. The problem with these sessions is that the learning often doesn’t stick and is quickly lost. Studies say 75% of the information learned through classroom training is forgotten in 6 days! Yet, many organizations continue to turn to this as their primary formalized delivery mechanism for employee development.
On the contrary, social learning typically happens informally in organizations. Employees observe their managers and other leaders, converse with colleagues about work-issues, and mimic those behaviors that they are motivated to learn.
How can organizations harvest the power of social learning in the workplace? It’s important to have a culture of continuous learning, where employees are open and transparent with sharing information. It’s also beneficial to support an ecosystem of “mentorship” where employees can easily find others with more experience to guide them. Building an interconnected, interactive environment can exponentially amplify the rate at which learning happens across the organization.
Social learning, in particular, is highly cost-effective because of its organic nature. This means it can happen anywhere and at any time. Here are some ways that social learning can help foster employee development in the workplace -
Social Learning Increases Productivity in your new Recruits
Research shows that shorter orientation periods for new hires can actually drive stronger engagement. Try adding social learning into the equation, by creating a shadow or buddy system for new recruits. It will help reduce their orientation time, help them to engage with their peers, and speed up the time it takes for them to be productive. It will also make it easier for them to get acquainted with the organization’s internal culture, functional processes, and learn specific information that will help them do their jobs. While shadowing or buddying up, you should encourage them to ask questions and create connections across the entire organization.
This initial personal touch with buddies also makes it easier for them to collaborate later on.
Social learning during the onboarding phase allows your employees to learn more effectively and impacts how they settle into your organization. This ensures that you can gain more value across your organization. Learning will be more active, and eventually, the learners will become the teachers.
Social Learning encourages Leadership in your L&D programs
Learning through formal channels can sometimes be limiting. Informal channels contribute significantly to one’s overall learning and encourage both the learner and teacher to perform their best.
Social learning can play a vital role in a formal leadership development advisory program for your organization. Ask your most effective leaders to be role models for employees that are next-in-line for promotions. These leaders and top performers should first be recognized for the capabilities they have strengths in. This can motivate them to build and continue to refine these skills. Then give them an opportunity to model and teach those skills to other employees. The employees, in turn, will look upon these leaders as experts and learn from them and imitate their behaviors.
Those who model these positive behaviors successfully should be rewarded while those who have challenges can be encouraged to try harder. It might take a bit of time and effort, but the benefits of social learning can far outweigh the time investment.
Social Learning Drives Engagement
Given its “people-first” nature, social learning can be an excellent tool to engage your employees. Create social learning spaces to make it easy to interact. Decide what makes sense for your organization. It can be a physical or online space, it can be structured or casual, the only thing it has to do is encourage conversations. Whether you guide conversations around certain topics or leave it very relaxed, make sure that it is a safe space where employees can discuss their challenges, ideas, and ask one another for help. Build a rewards and recognition system for those that participate. It can be as simple as providing some snacks or sending department-wide emails thanking them.
Building a rewarding environment for employees that are engaged and make contributions to the overall learning culture of the organization brings in a positive reinforcement that encourages the behavior to continue in the future.
Discover how we’re shaping the future of Social Learning
It may seem an obvious message and one that's hardly groundbreaking or revolutionary. Social learning needs to be a “people-first” approach. Today’s modern workplaces need easy-to-consume, relevant, and more effective ways to develop their employees. This requires providing learners with the wherewithal to acquire and use knowledge, in context.
Social learning is learner-centric and aligns perfectly with how employees, and especially millennials prefer to learn. Successfully leveraging social learning in your L&D programs will significantly improve your culture of continuous learning.
Everything we do at Sproutlogix comes from a simple idea - a better learning experience for your employees uplifts your workforce for enhanced business outcomes
Sproutlogix works with leading businesses to improve business impact through learning and technology. Whatever your business challenge, we will partner with you every step of the way to find the learning solution that fits best – and delivers results.