Skillsoft Blog

Thought Leader Insight: Dan Pontefract on Social Learning

Dan Pontefract, TELUSBy Dan Pontefract

Skillsoft: What does an organization without social learning look like? What COULD it look like?

Dan: The water cooler has been both a figurative and literal location of exchange. So too has the break room, the lunch room, the elevator … heck, even smokers’ alley outside the building. Social learning has always been a part of organizations. It’s the exchange of knowledge, intelligence, ideas and feedback through non-formal means. The ‘new’ social learning—where the utilization of collaborative technologies aid and abet the exchange—is a new must.

Why prevent it? Why stop it? An organization without social learning is an organization without its soul…without its culture. It’s a draconian stance to take, one that ensures disengagement will flourish (an oxymoron, I know) and learning will be trapped in a classroom and LMS forever.

Skillsoft: How would offering social learning benefit employee engagement?

Dan: To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one first must start with two pieces of bread. Let’s refer to this as formal learning. The peanut butter makes the bread stick together, something I like to refer to as informal learning (e.g., coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, books, etc.). But it’s the sweet irony of the jelly that makes the sandwich complete. That sweetness comes in the form of social learning, and it’s necessary if one wants an engaged organization and improved operating culture.

Social learning not only connects and unites one another in the exchange of knowledge, content and ideas—through collaborative technologies—it breaks down the barriers of hierarchy. Imagine a Senior Vice President who begins a weekly internal blog, discussing important “executive” topics with her team or the organization, while using it as a platform to solicit feedback and ideas on said topics.

How is that not a good way in which to both learn and increase employee engagement at the same time?

Skillsoft: Is mobile or social the next hot thing for organizations to offer employees as part of a learning program? Why?

Dan: I read with disdain a recent report from Proskauer entitled Social Media in the Workplace Global Study. They found 36% of employers actively block access to such external social media sites, compared to 29% in 2012 and 43% of businesses permit all of their employees to access social media sites, which is actually a fall of 10%.

This is not a good trend. Social, mobile wearables and whatever is next are part of our human condition. We invent to survive. We ideate to thrive. We create to exist.

Everything is the next hot thing for organizations to offer employees as part of a learning program. It’s not limited to social or mobile. A true learning organization should be listening to its employees (as well as industry) to determine how these new forms of technologies (and ideas) can assist the employee to become better engaged, better educated to, in turn, perform better in their role for purposes of the customer they serve.

Dan Pontefract is author of FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization and is Chief Envisioner of TELUS Transformation Office (a Skillsoft customer) where he helps organizations and leaders improve employee engagement, leadership development and organizational culture.

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