It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Aristotle has considered us humans as “social animals,” as we truly are so. It’s not like we can’t stand alone in the world—we could—however, as social beings, we seek the companionship of others so that we can feel better. Wherever life takes us, we tend to surround ourselves with others, and the workplace is no exception.
With the Coronavirus pandemic hitting us out of nowhere, many companies wondered what they could do to keep their employees motivated and engaged with their job while also sparing them feelings of loneliness, isolation, and boredom. That’s where social learning comes into play. But really, what is social learning? We’ll find out soon enough.
Social learning is a theory developed in the 1950s by Albert Bandura and his colleague Richard Walters. According to this theory, humans learn the most when they’re learning with other people. When people get in groups of more than two people, the learning process is facilitated. Bandura and Waiters claim that when people exchange perspectives, ideas, and information, they contribute to the learning being faster, more efficient, and the information getting better retained. This comes as a result of people observing others in action and being aware of the consequences of these actions.
While, at times, there might be a suspicion that some learners might be passive recipients of information when people work in groups, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, social learning theory suggests that this couldn’t be less true. Learners in group studies pay attention, memorize the behavior that they observed, and eventually practice it.
Ever since online learning came to be, social learning got the recognition it long deserved. However, its prominence came once again to play—like never before—with the pandemic shutting us down. In fear of not knowing when or if we would ever go back to the normal we knew, people had to be there to support one another anywhere, anytime, and for anything. Thanks to social learning, people still remained connected and up to date with their education and work during these unprecedented times.
Relationships between people can be fostered through many different channels, not only live and physically. We can all attest to this as most of us have experienced working from home, studying online, or keeping relationships afloat through online channels.
If one can maintain any relationship online, they surely can also dedicate themselves to online training. So, why won’t one use social learning theory knowing it will surely have benefits for your company.
Social learning is beneficial for both employees and employers. The more the employees open up, the more they will exchange information with each other and learn from one another, all this benefiting the company they work in. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of social learning in the workplace.
Humans learn by internalizing information. So, when colleagues share information with the others, they’ll start to internalize what they just learned, memorize it and soon put it to practice. Since they got the information needed, they will know what to do when faced with a similar situation.
We are always on the lookout for some sort of incentive that stimulates us to go further and we can easily say that the lack of motivation can be translated into a lower level of workforce productivity.
As we all know, no two people are alike, both physically and personality-wise. Some are more open, some might need more time to open up, and some might need others to take them out of their shell. The same applies to the people who work for a certain organization. However open one might be, the company and the people working there should find ways to incite discussion. By offering your employees the team communication tools, they’ll have the chance to contribute to the conversation without feeling nervous and anxious.
Once that invisible wall that stands between people who barely know each other tumbles down, people are more likely to both offer help and ask for help. However, it’s on the people who have been longer with the company to offer a helping hand to the new ones. Yet, there might be cases when people might know each other for long but have never get past that initial relationship and now are waiting for others to break that ice. So, when someone makes the big step, the other will want to repeat that action, either immediately or in the following days.
It’s common knowledge that new hires will need time to feel at home at their new workplace. That’s why it’s up to the staff to make them feel welcome and answer any of their questions. When the colleagues are open to the new employees, the latter will feel more comfortable expressing their struggles and frustrations as well as talk openly about the kinds of training they need to be more productive.
Now that you know the benefits of social learning, it’s time to focus on how you can actually implement this theory in your workplace. Here are some of the subtle ways you can incorporate it into your organization.
What better way to integrate social learning than starting a discussion among colleagues. Group conversations can be made during lunch, tea, or coffee breaks, and it’s a good way to hear from each other, what colleagues think of a particular topic, and how they put out their thoughts. In this way, employees will get to know one another on a whole other level and learn from each other.
Another way can be by asking employees questions pertaining to certain training material they received and asking for their opinions on how they believe that video will aid them in their future endeavors or share how that information has benefited them in the past.
We mentioned how important collaboration is to social learning theory, so, it’s only natural that it should be a great strategy to trigger social learning for your employees. In fact, social learning theory encourages the staff to take matters into their hands and find opportunities that lead them to collaborate with their work colleagues because only in that way will they truly get to learn from each other.
It’s almost impossible to learn every trick of the trade of your job in a formal setting. That’s why you as an employer should provide mentorship programs where your employees with a higher level of experience share with others what they have learned and mastered in their time working in your organization. It is through what they have done and what they have brought to the table that will motivate the others to replicate and get proficient in. You can also reward those who imitate these positive behaviors and encourage those who feel a bit behind to try harder.
Social learning theory is one of the most important psychological theories ever brought forward. It’s quite important in the workplace, too, as it has many benefits and is quite simple to be incorporated. The bottom line is, this theory proves to be effective and useful for both parties, the employees and employer too.
What about you, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.