Facilitating Social Learning
The future of employee learning and development is social, collaborative and ongoing. People are much more likely to learn if they can easily recall the information and apply it to their day-to-day jobs. Having the ability to apply that knowledge to what someone does every day is the best way to turn knowledge into capability. Social learning and the use of facilitators can amplify the impact of learning and development initiatives by encouraging ongoing knowledge transfer and connecting people in ways that are engaging and meaningful.
Why social learning works
Social learning thrives in and helps cultivate a culture of learning where employees learn while they work. Research shows that 90% of retained learning is experiential or social 1. Learning should be about putting people in situations that expand their perspectives, test their learnings, challenge their assumptions and make them practice by doing.
Social learning is inspired by leaders, enabled by employees and guided by actual on-the-job experiences. It blends formal and informal, contextual and content learning. Employee-led learning is available at the speed of need. Motivated learners can develop the skills that matter most on an ongoing basis. Social learning can tap into a company’s collective knowledge and expertise, as well as bring together a community of people around a topic, challenge, interest or goal to share insights and experience.
How facilitation amplifies learning
Research shows more effective workplace learning is peer to peer. Facilitation can help pave the way for those connections. Facilitation is the engine that drives engagement and better outcomes for learners at scale by engaging, guiding and supporting employees throughout the learning process. Facilitators help sustain engagement and learning while keeping content fresh and relevant to daily responsibilities. Facilitators help modify the content and learning process to the specific group and provide invaluable outside advice and input.
Good facilitators jump in to create opportunities for further interaction and help guide discussions constructively. They keep participants on track to reach programmatic learning goals. They set the stage for success, are a resource to learners and provide administrative support. Requests for help, feedback and insight can be made easily and without fear. It’s easier for people to ask for and get the support they need to thrive as individual and collaborate more effectively within the organization. And the more someone is actively engaged, the more they learn.
Learning that impacts at scale
Facilitation in a learning space not only amplifies learning but also scales the impact. “Learning that lasts doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens when it’s with others,” says Kim Bolton, Program Director, Leadership Development at Unum Group. “Our most successful facilitators are crucial to our ability to engage over 900 managers across our organization to help them become stronger leaders. And the benefit is, they learn just as much from facilitating as the participants.”
Facilitators help draw out knowledge and insight from other participants, keep group discussions moving towards desired outcomes and guide the participants throughout the experience. Facilitators, particularly if drawn from within the organization, can sustain engagement and learning by making the content relevant to the specific learners in the group, drawing connections between the learning activities and the real-time work they do on a daily basis. They motivate learners, making them accountable by tracking their progress and guiding them as a group towards personalized learning outcomes. Having a built-in support system and go-to mentor helps remove barriers to a learner’s success. Facilitators, in turn, gain experience as leaders who can simultaneously lead and learn.
People learn better from other people. Social learning and facilitation will help the best talent grow and develop as individuals, team players and leaders within the company. The peer-to-peer interaction allows them to refine the necessary learning skills in a personal and lasting way. The right combination of people, content, feedback and facilitation helps set the stage for success for employees to achieve their full potential. Having facilitators embedded in those programs allows companies to gain insights into individual and group engagement and progress towards learning goals. With that information in mind, companies can create a more effective and scalable learning program. Not only will the program drive better learner outcomes but it will also lay the foundation for talent to thrive at all levels.