10 tips to unlock social learning



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Social learning relies on people feeling excited to share their ideas, experiences, lessons from failure and secrets of success with others in the business. Here are our top tips for sparking energy and action...

10 tips to unlock social learning

Social learning relies on people feeling excited to share their ideas, experiences, lessons from failure and secrets of success with others in the business.

Here are our top tips for sparking energy and action:

1. Help people understand how it helps

Think about how you get people interested and engaged. You need people to understand how social learning will help the organisation as well as how it helps them perform better in their role.

Get your communications plan ready early!

2. Make sure people feel safe to share

Valuable learning comes from our failures and successes, but people need to feel comfortable sharing their failures. Encourage people, especially leaders, to test out new ideas, understand what happened (not 'who did it') and share their own stories of when things haven't gone to plan.

3. Look at what's rewarded

In lots of organisations, people believe that their value lies in their knowledge, giving them job security but little motivation to share their expertise.1

If 'knowledge is power' in your organisation, review what's being rewarded. Are people rewarded for their individual achievements? Or, for sharing their knowledge with others? Make sure the latteer is valued equally, promoted and recognised. What about collaboration of 'sharing secrets to success' awards?

4. Ensure people know that if they give, they will get

From a social psychology perspective, sharing knowledge involves some cost to the contributor (be it time, energy, resources). People need to know that if they share knowledge, others will reciprocate.

Remind people to give back with their own tips and ideas, and remember the organisation can reciprocate too through reward or recognition.

5. Change perceptions about learning

In western cultures, we are more prone to view learning from others as 'parasitic' or 'scrounging', whereas in eastern cultures (such as China and Hong Kong) using social learning strategies is the accepted norm.2 As well as reviewing the internal culture, leaders of western organisations also need to challenge ingrained perceptions and beliefs about learning.

6. Make the unconscious conscious

Social learning is inherent in human behaviour. We are wired to learn from those around us. As a leader, helping people with social learning is not about teaching people a new skill, but bringing an existing habit into conscious awareness and amplifying it. It's helping people to seek out those moments where they can learn from, and share learning and ideas with, others every day.

7. Scrap the boundary between teacher and pupil

Since school we have been taught to listen and learn from teachers, academics and experts, but this knowledge hierarchy needs to be destroyed for social learning to thrive; knowledge cannot be 'owned' by anyone. Everyone has the potential to innovate, everyone has experiences and ideas they can draw on and share.

8. Rethink how you prove impact

There's always pressure to quantify value and prove ROI. Whilst, in comparison to more traditional L&D programme formats, this is not straightforward with social learning initiatives, it is possible.

Leaders just need to think differently about how they measure engagement and use qualitative data (e.g. collecting stories of personal change in video blogs or learning diaries).

9. Don't start with the digital platform

All too often we equate social learning with an online social platform, focusing mainly on which platform to choose and not spending enough, or any, time doing informed design or ensuring the platform launch fits within a wider campaign.

To create a platform that really adds value, keep asking: what are people's real day-to-day needs? What are people hungry to learn about in our company, industry and for their career?

10. If you can't change a lot, tweak a little

If your social learning strategy feels a long way off, don't be disheartened. Just keep the concept of social learning in mind when planning your next initiative and constantly question where and how you can create more opportunities for social learning to occur.


To find out more about social learning, head over to and view our white paper.

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