Social learning theory states that people learn through observation and imitation. Albert Bandura coined the theory in the 1970s by building off classic ideas of conditioning. He proposed that people learn by assigning different values to the behaviors they observe in others through four processes: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. In other words, we don’t just imitate people – we choose who we imitate by identifying with them.
This observation led to the creation of Social Learning theory, which is now an accepted paradigm of education that has become commonly observed in the workplace as well. According to Bloomfire, 70-90% of learning in the modern workplace occurs through employees informally modeling behavior to each other by interacting. Thus, Social Learning has a tangible value to business leaders, one that has changed how the most successful businesses communicate with their employees. Modifying training strategies to include Bandura’s principles of observation and imitation is key to using Social Learning to improve employee development.
What is Social Learning in the Workplace?
In the workplace, social learning is often used interchangeably with “collaborative learning.” This is because imitation guides how workers collaborate with their peers. They learn to take an increasingly active role in the learning process as they become more comfortable working with those around them. They imitate the behaviors of others, but in this setting, they also build on their observations with their own creative instincts.
Compared to instructor-led training and other conventional employee education methods, social learning provides a potentially cost-effective solution to workplace training. When properly implemented, the principles of social learning improve employee development without costly seminars and in-person trainers.
What is the Impact of Social Learning in Training and Development?
Social learning presents several benefits to employee development. The most significant is that it allows employees to learn at their own pace, which supports their engagement in the learning process and increases learning retention.
An increase in engagement encourages a workplace to become a continuously collaborative learning environment, which is more engaging than a conventional seminar because it is more natural. Productivity increases as a result of this engagement because collaboration includes social observation and imitation, which as Bravura observed is key to how humans learn best.
How Can Social Learning Be Implemented in the Workplace?
A corporate LMS or learning management system allows employers to use modern technology to implement social learning in the workplace. An LMS gives employees the chance to engage with each other in a familiar technological space, sharing experiences, creating group chats, and modeling their learning after the actions of their mentors, even if they aren’t aware of it.
A corporate LMS provides a space to encourage learning based on collaboration and mutual engagement rather than on expensive and often ineffective training methods.
What Features Support Social Learning in a Corporate LMS?
A corporate LMS can approach social learning in multiple ways. The first is through its discussion forums, which support collaborative learning between employees by providing a space where interaction and learning come naturally. This allows workers to interact with instructors and have their questions answered, but it also creates opportunities for engagement that may not be present in other settings.
The flexibility provided by a corporate LMS allows employees to be more immersed in their learning materials. Since the LMS is accessible on mobile devices, employees can control when and how they are engaging with the workspace. This makes their learning more effective because they are engaging with it by choice.
Finally, gamification allows an LMS to make learning more engaging by adding competitive elements to the learning process. Learners can be enticed by the system to compete with each other as a way to make learning more personal and enjoyable. Establishing this personal motivation is key to how an LMS can foster social learning.
The key is to use this technology to go beyond conventional training methods that force learning on employees, instead creating situations where employees want to engage with each other. As Bandura demonstrated, this desire for engagement results in more learning than traditional teaching methods ever could.