Spontaneous, efficient, and measurable: 3 good reasons to leverage social learning
Research from MIT reveals that the number of opportunities that your organization provides for social learning has become the single biggest factor in employee productivity. What role can you play, as a manager, to support this learning process “by and with others”1?
90% of the learning that takes place today in the knowledge economy is in the form social learning, or informal learning from others on the job. For example, employees often shadow or observe their superiors or colleagues “to watch and learn” what they need to know. But leaving social learning entirely up to individuals is risky, given the high costs to your organization when such interactions fail to take place. According to Harvard Business Review, Fortune 500 companies lose a combined $31.5 billion per year from failure on the part of employees to share knowledge effectively.
Rewarding the social fabric
According to MIT professor Alex Pentland, economic incentives often fail when it comes to productivity and creativity, because they fail to recognize the role of social learning. “Economic incentives that apply to the individual ignore the social fabric and the social fabric often wins in that struggle,” he says. “What you can also do is reward the social fabric (…) A group incentive seems to work much better in many situations than individual incentives.” Jeanne Meister agrees. She reports an increasing focus within HR departments today on team development as opposed to just individual development: “While HR departments have traditionally focused on individual employees – recruiting them, developing them, and assessing their performance – we are seeing the advent of a new capability, one of developing team intelligence, or the practice of understanding what makes great teams deliver exceptional results.”
Building a culture of engagement and exploration
Understanding what role you as a leader — as well as the organization as a whole — should play in facilitating social learning might require you to branch out into new ways of thinking. For example, Pentland studies what he calls social physics, or how ideas spread and the effect that flow has on productivity. He reports that the number of opportunities that a company provides for social learning is often the single largest factor in employee productivity and has identified the two most important measures for predicting success:
1) Engagement: This measure refers to the frequency and type of interaction between company members. “Groups where everyone else talks to everyone else, in other words, where engagement is high, tend to be highly productive, no matter what kind of work they are doing.”
2) Exploration: This measure refers to how often company members go outside their immediate circles to connect with a diverse range of people.
1.« Comment mettre le social learning au service de l’apprentissage collaboratif » (Crossknowledge)
Excerpt from Business Digest n°279, September 2017.
To read more:
Based on « Is your company encouraging employees to share what they know? » by Christopher Myers (Harvard Business Review, April 2017), « It’s the company’s job to help employees learn », by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Mara Swan (Harvard Business Review, July 2016), « The employee experience is the future of work: 10 HR trends for 2017 », by Jeanne Meister (Forbes, January 2017).