Posted: 15th May 2014

Senior managers at financial services firms are not born with the knowledge of how to do their jobs and run companies.

Much of the experience they have now was learnt on the job. Yet there is a misconception in financial services, and many industries today, that learning starts and ends in the training room, through formal assessments or in exams.

Here we give a pedestal to that more fundamental way of learning – social learning – that we use every day, and which could be harnessed to the benefits of employers, employees and customers alike. Without knowing it, your organisation already applies many of the tools for social learning

What is social learning?

Social learning is not new. It is, in fact, the majority of learning we do. It occurs amongst human beings naturally, gaining and developing knowledge through friends, family, colleagues and the environment around you. It works because effective learning takes place contextually.

Experts in social learning tell us that 70% of learning takes place ‘on the job’, 20% of learning takes place in a social capacity and 10% of learning happens through formal, traditional ‘classroom’ methods .

This emerging learning system contributes to firms reducing costs. Its power is evidenced through higher employee engagement, lower attrition and an ability amongst some employees to expand their roles without a major impact on productivity.

Advance through technology

Making e-learning social through interaction and skilfully crafted appealing visuals, means we see the benefits of adapting what previously has been elongated dry and rote learning, into shorter, interactive, engaging computer based learning.

Whilst e-learning veers on the side of the more traditional aspects of learning (managed externally and additional to an employee’s day-to-day role), it can add value to learning organisations with the way you can personalise the learning to an individual level with the use of simple macros and graphics.

Learning evolution

Within a work environment, social learning is form of self-organised professional learning. The challenge is to capture the continually evolving knowledge and best-practises within your business and field. Your firm can gain through mentoring programmes, multi-discipline teams working together and engaging peers and subject experts through other everyday business interactions.

Where mainstay formal training focuses on policies and procedures, through increased collaboration and knowledge, social learning provides an opportunity to accelerate learning and development.

Assessing effectiveness

Assessing and validating social learning requires a different set of measures when compared with the online test, the exam or another structure event. This is because the span of learning is much broader, deeper and more person to the individual employee.

At this early stage in the formal measurement of social learning, some are mapping and tracking individuals’ roles to gain a detailed understanding of the key elements of their role. By doing this, social learning objectives can be created and measured holistically. Once objectives have been agreed it is easier to design an appropriate means of testing and measuring. These may include role-plays, written reports, action plans, peer feedback and observations.

Slowly, the learning misconception of recent times that learning and development starts and ends in a classroom is being abandoned. This is evolving in favour of a realisation that people continue their learning journey once they have returned to the workplace. How will you harness this in your team?

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