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Social Learning

Empowering employees to learn from one another


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Think back to a time when you learned something new and it really resonated with you. More than likely, you weren’t alone but were surrounded by others who shared a similar experience and helped you to grasp a concept or rethink your approach. It’s this type of collaboration that can make learning stick. Social learning allows organizations to create a culture of learning on the job, continually, inherently, and resolutely. Learn more about the offering.

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  • Josh Haims, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Amy Titus, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Jennifer Stempel, Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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Learn more about the offering

Simply stated, social learning is the natural state where individuals learn from one another. It is not necessarily a new practice or a new way of thinking; employees are already learning from one another. However, organizations have an opportunity to highlight the importance of this open dialog and create a foundation that directly supports the social component of learning. To help achieve this next level and create a smooth flow of information and lessons learned, organizations should work to:

  • Bridge the gap between different silos in the workplace, creating an easier transfer of knowledge
  • Facilitate active professional gatherings, where discussion ultimately demonstrates to be useful
  • Support fluidity of knowledge, the ability to find and get to the people and resources when and where needed
  • Provide tools and support that assist employees to work more effectively
  • Assist in serendipitous learning experiences

How can social learning add value to my organization?

In a world where learning is an ongoing, real-time necessity, who better to aid in the learning of your employees than their peers? As Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard once said, “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable.”1 He was, of course, referring to the idea that being able to capture and share the knowledge that resides in employees’ heads is a tremendous benefit to the organization. Social learning represents this type of ongoing conversation and sharing of knowledge, whereby employees have the opportunity to learn and help their colleagues learn. It is not a replacement for current enterprise learning methods; rather, social learning is a way to support formal training programs in order to make time spent on the job more meaningful.

This can happen when organizations incorporate the social aspects of learning into their current learning strategies and encourage individuals to interact more frequently and deliberately.

Social learning can change organizations in several ways:

Increase productivity for new employees: Through social learning, employees can become empowered to set their own learning agendas from the beginning — they can pose questions to the masses, poll their peers, and engage in topics that interest and pertain to them.

Hold Employees Accountable: Social learning, by design, allows a community to remediate or correct misinformation. By creating a culture that promotes the “push and pull” of content in a comfortable environment, employees can have a sense of ownership in discussing and collaborating on ideas.

Support truly engaged networking: One of the powers of social learning is that it assists an organization to do more with less time and fewer resources.

Allow global workforces to act as one: As organizations grow and employees are increasingly spread over large distances and time zones, the case for social learning becomes even more pressing.

Drive innovation and collaboration: How often have leaders thought, “I really want to get the organization talking about [fill in the blank]”? Through social learning mechanisms, leaders are able to propose topics and drive discussion toward current and important issues across their organization.

The sooner you start…

The market demands a new mindset for learning strategy and a meaningful transition to embedding social learning across the enterprise. Social learning allows for the creation of new knowledge and the building of skills to face what were once unforeseen challenges in a given field or industry. Adopting social learning may feel risky because it represents a repositioning of learning and shifts some of the responsibility and control to participants. But organizations that ignore the use of social learning to support today’s evolving business challenges may limit the potential of their workforce and, in turn, their overall ability to meet goals, grow, and thrive.

1 As quoted in The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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