Social Learning: L&D’s Secret Weapon for High-Performing Teams

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
June 18, 2024

It’s true that formal learning methods have their place in employee development. At one point or another, most employees need to experience  seminars, courses, or e-learning modules that can help with baseline development of technical skills. But these kinds of L&D training methods have limited impact on their own. And they don’t always factor in all the different ways that humans learn best.

With the ever-growing skills gaps and evolution of the modern workplace, organizations need to find ways to go beyond traditional classroom training and elevate employee learning and development. The solution? Social learning. 

Keep reading as we break down the impact that social learning—structured developmental relationships and interactions with peers, mentors, and subject matter experts—has on employee learning and development (L&D). We’ll share tactical solutions for creating a high-performance culture through social learning strategies.

Jump to a section in this article:

What is social learning? 

Social learning is a dynamic and interactive approach to L&D, where employees develop their skills and knowledge through interactions with their peers. Employees acquire institutional knowledge, skills, and insights by collaborating and conversing with colleagues, mentors, and subject matter experts. 

It's a departure from traditional, top-down training models that often rely on lectures, manuals, and one-size-fits-all approaches.

Instead, social learning taps into the power of human connection. It recognizes that we learn best not in isolation, but by observing, questioning, and sharing insights with others. This can happen through informal water cooler conversations, mentorship programs, lunch and learns, group discussions, communities of practice, and a variety of other formats.

The role of social learning in the workplace

Humans are inherently social creatures–it’s wired in our DNA. Since humans make up the workforce, our workplaces must be social environments too. Employees shouldn’t be spending their days in a silo. At a minimum, isolation leads to feelings of disconnection, which can significantly impact individual well-being and engagement. On a larger scale, siloed workforces miss out on the essential benefits of a connected workplace: collaboration, knowledge sharing, innovation, and ultimately, high performance. 

Social learning recognizes that knowledge doesn't just reside in textbooks or formal training programs, but also in the minds and experiences of those around us. When employees engage in conversations, ask questions, and share insights with their colleagues, mentors, or subject matter experts, learning becomes dynamic, relevant, and impactful.

The effectiveness of social learning is backed by the well-known 70/20/10 model, which suggests that only 10% of learning comes from formal training, while 20% comes from social learning interactions, and 70% comes from on-the-job experiences. This model underscores the importance of creating a workplace environment where social learning is not just an afterthought, but an integral part of how employees grow and develop.

“What we've been trying to do is talk about this growth mindset, learning and development, and dispel this notion that everything happens in the classroom. We can provide that formal training, but how are you learning in your everyday and incorporating this? [...] I do believe that we need to talk more about that, to look at that social learning element and coaching and continuous feedback.” - Tiffany Smye, Senior Director, Talent, Learning & Development, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

In essence, social learning is about harnessing the collective knowledge and experience of the entire organization to accelerate skill development, enhance problem-solving, and foster a culture of continuous learning. It's about recognizing that the most valuable learning resources often aren't found in textbooks, but in the people we work with every day.

What happens when we neglect the 20% of learning that comes from social interaction? Silos form, knowledge gets trapped, and the workplace becomes a collection of individuals instead of a unified team working together to accomplish the company’s goals. We create a massive knowledge gap that makes it difficult for employees to apply their formal training (10%) into doing on-the-job. Ultimately, productivity suffers, innovation stagnates, and the full potential of the workforce remains untapped.

The benefits of social learning 

Despite being an underutilized L&D strategy, social learning offers substantial benefits to both employees and organizations. When companies invest in social learning, they:

1. Close skills gaps

87% of companies claim they’re experiencing a widespread skills shortage. It goes without saying that a skilled workforce helps you reach your organizational goals faster and more effectively. While there are many ways to help your team grow their skills, social learning can help push employee development into the highest gear. 

Traditional training programs are often linear, falling into two categories: 

  • One-size-fits-all: A single learning track that fails to meet unique needs and developmental goals.
  • Custom, but cumbersome: HR and L&D teams creating unique programs for every potential scenario, which is resource-intensive and often outdated by the time they're finished.

Social learning empowers employees to create custom paths of development that are tailored to their strengths and needs by leveraging the expertise of those around them. This collaborative approach not only increases engagement in the learning process but also promotes deeper knowledge retention and practical application.

2. Access and retain institutional knowledge

A large percentage of the skills that employees possess are transferable. However, during the time that an employee works for your organization, they develop knowledge that is unique to your company and its operations.

This institutional knowledge is critical for maintaining business momentum. But because it’s specific to your organization, it can take time for new employees to identify the knowledge that they’re missing and figure out who can share it with them. 

Social learning helps unlock and facilitate the transfer of this information. It minimizes the risk that this knowledge is lost when people leave your organization and reduces ramp time for new employees, boosting productivity and overall performance. 

3. Create a culture of continuous learning

Traditional training is often episodic. If employees are provided with one learning opportunity, it’s often a long time before they’re provided with another.

While there’s an argument that some learning and development is better than none, this type of gap can make it challenging for you and your employees to make the most of your learning investment. When you take extended breaks, it’s difficult to get back into a learning mindset and reinforce learned skills. 

Social learning makes development a part of your organizational workflow. It becomes a part of how employees engage with one another on a regular basis and turns learning into an ongoing occurrence rather than a one-off.

4. Increase collaboration and innovation

According to Salesforce, 86% of executives say that a lack of collaboration and communication is a major factor in business failure. While the expectation is that employees and teams can work together organically to achieve business outcomes, it’s often not the case. 

Social learning can help foster the connections needed to promote cross-functional and cross-departmental collaboration. It opens the doors for employees to feel comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, and having conversations that drive performance and revenue.

RBC is a great example of this. By boosting employee networks, they found that 52% of participants learned something to help them and their team with a current or future project. 

Or, at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, they drove effective leadership development and enhanced collaboration by pairing Vice President mentors with Director Mentees: 

“When we looked at collaboration, that was where we started to see people solve problems outside their silos. Not because we stuck them in a room and said, here's a business case to solve. It wasn't conversations related to our business. It was just getting to know each other. And through that, we saw cross functional collaboration. To solve business problems, you have to enable people. You can't expect they're going to do this on their own. You have to give them the tools and resources required.” - Tiffany Smye, Senior Director, Talent, Learning & Development, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

When employees are comfortable communicating with and learning from their peers, it also promotes transparency across the organization. This exchange of information increases trust and understanding between employees which can be instrumental for employee and organizational growth.

Manager Effectiveness:  How To Upskill Your Managers at Scale to Drive Performance. Watch Now.

Examples of social learning in the office

Social learning in and of itself is a broad concept that can be applied to various use cases in the workplace. 

Here are a few examples of high-impact opportunities where you can leverage social learning to drive performance and organizational outcomes.

Social learning for manager development

The ever-changing challenges of the modern workplace mean that managers need a unique set of skills to effectively lead a team. It’s almost impossible for any one leadership training solution to keep up.

By leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of the entire organization, social learning initiatives enable managers to create custom paths of development that are tailored to their specific challenges and goals. This collaborative approach not only ensures that learning remains relevant and up-to-date but also fosters a deeper understanding of the complexities of leadership in the ever-evolving workplace.

Additionally, social learning encourages managers to connect with peers across different departments, exposing them to diverse perspectives and fostering a broader understanding of the business as a whole. By working collaboratively and sharing insights, managers can better navigate the unique challenges they face, ultimately leading to more effective leadership and stronger team performance.

“Most ​managers ​were ​people ​who'd ​been ​promoted ​into ​the ​seat ​because ​they ​were ​the ​most ​senior ​person ​in ​the ​team. ​Their ​level ​of ​learning ​was ​not ​spectacular ​in ​the ​first ​place. ​And ​suddenly ​we ​thrust ​them ​into ​a ​much ​different ​environment ​where ​they ​were ​being ​asked ​to ​deal ​with ​a ​lot ​of ​things ​simultaneously. [...] Those ​issues ​really ​brought ​to ​the ​forefront ​the ​need ​to  ​think ​about ​what ​we ​do ​to ​enable ​managers, ​not ​through ​just ​one ​off ​training ​and ​resources, ​but ​day ​to ​day, ​week ​to ​week ​sets ​of ​capabilities ​for ​them.” - Brian Elliott, Co-founder, Future Forum; Author of "How the Future Works”; Former Slack & Google Executive
10KC Manager Effectiveness Solution. Equip your managers with essential skills to drive manager effectiveness and cultivate a high-performance team. Learn more.

Social learning for culture integration

Times of transformation that require culture integration, such as mergers and acquisitions or major organizational changes, can create stress and uncertainty for employees. This can negatively impact productivity, performance, and even employee retention. 

By encouraging the organic sharing of values, norms, and best practices, social learning helps to merge cultures seamlessly, creating a unified and high-performing organization by: 

  • Fostering belonging and reducing turnover: Social learning initiatives provide a space for employees to connect, share experiences, and build relationships, enhancing engagement and reducing turnover during times of change.
  • Breaking down silos to share critical knowledge: Social learning encourages cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing, preventing the formation of information silos that hinder productivity during culture integration initiatives. 
  • Accelerating skill development: By connecting employees with the right expertise and peers at the right time, social learning ensures that critical skills are maintained and developed throughout the transition, boosting performance and reducing the learning curve.

Read more: What is Culture Integration? A Key Priority for Organizations When Navigating Change

On demand webinar. Watch now. Strategic Employee Connections:  Driving Culture, Belonging, Performance and Retention after M&As and Restructures

Social learning for employee onboarding

The quality of onboarding when a new employee joins your organization impacts everything from their productivity to their retention. Studies have found that new hire satisfaction increases by as much as 36% when they have an onboarding buddy

Implementing social learning opportunities into your onboarding process allows new hires to unlock valuable insights from their new peers while building connections with their new team members. This not only helps orient new hires to role-specific skills but sets them up for success as they navigate the processes, culture, and politics of a brand-new workplace.

It also gives them direct access to experienced managers who can provide leadership-specific insights into effective leadership styles, decision-making processes, and communication strategies.

10KC Onboarding Solution. Engage new hires with a supportive onboarding experience that increases time to productivity. Learn more.

Social learning for early talent

Early talent is often hungry for growth opportunities. However, when individuals are just entering the workforce, meeting new people is naturally  even more challenging.And within a large organization, the sheer volume of new grads and early talent can make it near-impossible to offer training programs that meet the needs of every employee. 

Structured social learning experiences can provide early talent with opportunities to identify and carve out a path for their careers. For example, mentors can provide insight and shadowing opportunities, so new grads understand future career opportunities and identify skills gaps. Meanwhile, cross-functional connections give early talent a network of peers that they can lean on as they find their footing and adapt to the workforce. 

10KC Early Talent Solution. Scale early talent mentorship programs to develop, retain, and engage top talent. Learn more.

Challenges with social learning at scale

It’s understandable why organizations tend to default to traditional learning and skills development methods.

Social learning—while highly effective—can be challenging to execute in a way that actually makes an impact. Unlike traditional training, it's often been left to chance or relegated to sporadic initiatives like general mentorship, occasional networking events, or casual gatherings for pizza. These piecemeal efforts, while well-intentioned, often fail to align with specific talent development goals or broader business objectives, limiting their impact.

The good news is that there are ways to tackle these challenges head-on while reaping the benefits of social learning. But it’s still worth understanding the challenges that come with bringing social learning into your organization so you can be better prepared to efficiently maximize its potential.

Some of the challenges with attempting to leverage social learning at scale include:

Misalignment with specific goals

Traditional social learning, often relegated to ad-hoc interactions or general mentorship programs, lacks the structure needed to drive targeted learning outcomes. Serendipitous connections, while valuable, aren’t guaranteed to align with the specific development needs or organizational goals you’re trying to impact. Without a clear focus, social learning efforts can become scattered and fail to move the needle on critical skill gaps or knowledge transfer.

Unintentional conversations

Even when connections are facilitated, conversations in traditional social learning settings often lack the depth and direction needed to foster meaningful skill development or knowledge transfer. Casual discussions, while enjoyable and potentially informative, may not delve into the specific topics or challenges that are most relevant to an individual's growth or the organization's goals. Without a clear purpose and guidance, these interactions can remain surface-level, failing to unlock the full potential of social learning for both employees and the business.

Limited visibility into learning interactions

Social learning that occurs organically within the workplace often happens in the shadows, leaving organizations with limited visibility into what's actually happening. It’s almost impossible for organizations to track and understand the interactions taking place, who is connecting with whom, and what knowledge is being shared. This lack of visibility makes it challenging to identify areas where support or intervention is needed, ensure alignment with strategic goals, and assess the overall effectiveness of social learning initiatives.

Difficulty measuring impact

Like most business initiatives, the expectation is that investment in learning is tied to specific outcomes. So when quiz scores and module completion are much easier to measure, it’s hard to blame organizations for relying on traditional learning solutions. This can make it challenging to justify investments in social learning, where the impact is often less immediately visible.

It's important to understand how social learning can generate a wealth of valuable data, in addition to qualitative feedback, especially with the right tools in place. Data-dashboards can help you track engagement, pinpoint knowledge gaps, and assess the tangible impact of social learning on performance and business outcomes.

How to build workplace relationships that drive performance with social learning 

There’s a time and place for formal training methods. But the reality is that focusing solely on formal learning leaves a development gap that puts your organization and your employees at a massive disadvantage.

Social learning fills this gap by creating an environment where employees can learn from each other’s experiences and insights to develop a high-performing workforce. 

While traditionally difficult to operationalize, the right technology makes it possible to power social learning at scale. 

10KC: The solution for strategic social learning

10KC powers performance through essential workplace relationships and knowledge sharing at scale. Our platform transforms social learning from a haphazard process into a strategic initiative, ensuring alignment, intentionality, visibility, and measurable impact.

  • Strategic Alignment: 10KC's platform moves beyond random connections by strategically matching employees based on their skills, goals, and organizational attributes. This ensures that every interaction is purposeful and aligned with specific development needs, both for individuals and the organization as a whole.
  • Goal-Oriented Programs: Utilize structured pathways and guided discussion prompts that align with specific talent development goals. This ensures that conversations are focused, intentional, and geared towards achieving specific outcomes.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Get unprecedented visibility into the social learning process. Organizations can now track who is connecting with whom, what topics are being discussed, and how knowledge is being shared. This data-driven approach enables targeted support and intervention, ensuring that social learning aligns with strategic objectives and maximizes impact.
  • Measurable ROI: By providing robust analytics and data dashboards, 10KC allows organizations to quantify the impact of social learning on employee engagement, skill development, knowledge transfer, and overall performance. This enables businesses to clearly demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of their social learning initiatives and make data-driven decisions to continually improve their learning strategies.
Make social learning your organization’s competitive advantage. See how 10KC helps you build workplace connections  that drive performance. Book a demo.e
Webinar

Social Learning: L&D’s Secret Weapon for High-Performing Teams

What is social learning? 

Social learning is a dynamic and interactive approach to L&D, where employees develop their skills and knowledge through interactions with their peers. Employees acquire institutional knowledge, skills, and insights by collaborating and conversing with colleagues, mentors, and subject matter experts. 

It's a departure from traditional, top-down training models that often rely on lectures, manuals, and one-size-fits-all approaches.

Instead, social learning taps into the power of human connection. It recognizes that we learn best not in isolation, but by observing, questioning, and sharing insights with others. This can happen through informal water cooler conversations, mentorship programs, lunch and learns, group discussions, communities of practice, and a variety of other formats.

The role of social learning in the workplace

Humans are inherently social creatures–it’s wired in our DNA. Since humans make up the workforce, our workplaces must be social environments too. Employees shouldn’t be spending their days in a silo. At a minimum, isolation leads to feelings of disconnection, which can significantly impact individual well-being and engagement. On a larger scale, siloed workforces miss out on the essential benefits of a connected workplace: collaboration, knowledge sharing, innovation, and ultimately, high performance. 

Social learning recognizes that knowledge doesn't just reside in textbooks or formal training programs, but also in the minds and experiences of those around us. When employees engage in conversations, ask questions, and share insights with their colleagues, mentors, or subject matter experts, learning becomes dynamic, relevant, and impactful.

The effectiveness of social learning is backed by the well-known 70/20/10 model, which suggests that only 10% of learning comes from formal training, while 20% comes from social learning interactions, and 70% comes from on-the-job experiences. This model underscores the importance of creating a workplace environment where social learning is not just an afterthought, but an integral part of how employees grow and develop.

“What we've been trying to do is talk about this growth mindset, learning and development, and dispel this notion that everything happens in the classroom. We can provide that formal training, but how are you learning in your everyday and incorporating this? [...] I do believe that we need to talk more about that, to look at that social learning element and coaching and continuous feedback.” - Tiffany Smye, Senior Director, Talent, Learning & Development, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

In essence, social learning is about harnessing the collective knowledge and experience of the entire organization to accelerate skill development, enhance problem-solving, and foster a culture of continuous learning. It's about recognizing that the most valuable learning resources often aren't found in textbooks, but in the people we work with every day.

What happens when we neglect the 20% of learning that comes from social interaction? Silos form, knowledge gets trapped, and the workplace becomes a collection of individuals instead of a unified team working together to accomplish the company’s goals. We create a massive knowledge gap that makes it difficult for employees to apply their formal training (10%) into doing on-the-job. Ultimately, productivity suffers, innovation stagnates, and the full potential of the workforce remains untapped.

The benefits of social learning 

Despite being an underutilized L&D strategy, social learning offers substantial benefits to both employees and organizations. When companies invest in social learning, they:

1. Close skills gaps

87% of companies claim they’re experiencing a widespread skills shortage. It goes without saying that a skilled workforce helps you reach your organizational goals faster and more effectively. While there are many ways to help your team grow their skills, social learning can help push employee development into the highest gear. 

Traditional training programs are often linear, falling into two categories: 

  • One-size-fits-all: A single learning track that fails to meet unique needs and developmental goals.
  • Custom, but cumbersome: HR and L&D teams creating unique programs for every potential scenario, which is resource-intensive and often outdated by the time they're finished.

Social learning empowers employees to create custom paths of development that are tailored to their strengths and needs by leveraging the expertise of those around them. This collaborative approach not only increases engagement in the learning process but also promotes deeper knowledge retention and practical application.

2. Access and retain institutional knowledge

A large percentage of the skills that employees possess are transferable. However, during the time that an employee works for your organization, they develop knowledge that is unique to your company and its operations.

This institutional knowledge is critical for maintaining business momentum. But because it’s specific to your organization, it can take time for new employees to identify the knowledge that they’re missing and figure out who can share it with them. 

Social learning helps unlock and facilitate the transfer of this information. It minimizes the risk that this knowledge is lost when people leave your organization and reduces ramp time for new employees, boosting productivity and overall performance. 

3. Create a culture of continuous learning

Traditional training is often episodic. If employees are provided with one learning opportunity, it’s often a long time before they’re provided with another.

While there’s an argument that some learning and development is better than none, this type of gap can make it challenging for you and your employees to make the most of your learning investment. When you take extended breaks, it’s difficult to get back into a learning mindset and reinforce learned skills. 

Social learning makes development a part of your organizational workflow. It becomes a part of how employees engage with one another on a regular basis and turns learning into an ongoing occurrence rather than a one-off.

4. Increase collaboration and innovation

According to Salesforce, 86% of executives say that a lack of collaboration and communication is a major factor in business failure. While the expectation is that employees and teams can work together organically to achieve business outcomes, it’s often not the case. 

Social learning can help foster the connections needed to promote cross-functional and cross-departmental collaboration. It opens the doors for employees to feel comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, and having conversations that drive performance and revenue.

RBC is a great example of this. By boosting employee networks, they found that 52% of participants learned something to help them and their team with a current or future project. 

Or, at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, they drove effective leadership development and enhanced collaboration by pairing Vice President mentors with Director Mentees: 

“When we looked at collaboration, that was where we started to see people solve problems outside their silos. Not because we stuck them in a room and said, here's a business case to solve. It wasn't conversations related to our business. It was just getting to know each other. And through that, we saw cross functional collaboration. To solve business problems, you have to enable people. You can't expect they're going to do this on their own. You have to give them the tools and resources required.” - Tiffany Smye, Senior Director, Talent, Learning & Development, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

When employees are comfortable communicating with and learning from their peers, it also promotes transparency across the organization. This exchange of information increases trust and understanding between employees which can be instrumental for employee and organizational growth.

Manager Effectiveness:  How To Upskill Your Managers at Scale to Drive Performance. Watch Now.

Examples of social learning in the office

Social learning in and of itself is a broad concept that can be applied to various use cases in the workplace. 

Here are a few examples of high-impact opportunities where you can leverage social learning to drive performance and organizational outcomes.

Social learning for manager development

The ever-changing challenges of the modern workplace mean that managers need a unique set of skills to effectively lead a team. It’s almost impossible for any one leadership training solution to keep up.

By leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of the entire organization, social learning initiatives enable managers to create custom paths of development that are tailored to their specific challenges and goals. This collaborative approach not only ensures that learning remains relevant and up-to-date but also fosters a deeper understanding of the complexities of leadership in the ever-evolving workplace.

Additionally, social learning encourages managers to connect with peers across different departments, exposing them to diverse perspectives and fostering a broader understanding of the business as a whole. By working collaboratively and sharing insights, managers can better navigate the unique challenges they face, ultimately leading to more effective leadership and stronger team performance.

“Most ​managers ​were ​people ​who'd ​been ​promoted ​into ​the ​seat ​because ​they ​were ​the ​most ​senior ​person ​in ​the ​team. ​Their ​level ​of ​learning ​was ​not ​spectacular ​in ​the ​first ​place. ​And ​suddenly ​we ​thrust ​them ​into ​a ​much ​different ​environment ​where ​they ​were ​being ​asked ​to ​deal ​with ​a ​lot ​of ​things ​simultaneously. [...] Those ​issues ​really ​brought ​to ​the ​forefront ​the ​need ​to  ​think ​about ​what ​we ​do ​to ​enable ​managers, ​not ​through ​just ​one ​off ​training ​and ​resources, ​but ​day ​to ​day, ​week ​to ​week ​sets ​of ​capabilities ​for ​them.” - Brian Elliott, Co-founder, Future Forum; Author of "How the Future Works”; Former Slack & Google Executive
10KC Manager Effectiveness Solution. Equip your managers with essential skills to drive manager effectiveness and cultivate a high-performance team. Learn more.

Social learning for culture integration

Times of transformation that require culture integration, such as mergers and acquisitions or major organizational changes, can create stress and uncertainty for employees. This can negatively impact productivity, performance, and even employee retention. 

By encouraging the organic sharing of values, norms, and best practices, social learning helps to merge cultures seamlessly, creating a unified and high-performing organization by: 

  • Fostering belonging and reducing turnover: Social learning initiatives provide a space for employees to connect, share experiences, and build relationships, enhancing engagement and reducing turnover during times of change.
  • Breaking down silos to share critical knowledge: Social learning encourages cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing, preventing the formation of information silos that hinder productivity during culture integration initiatives. 
  • Accelerating skill development: By connecting employees with the right expertise and peers at the right time, social learning ensures that critical skills are maintained and developed throughout the transition, boosting performance and reducing the learning curve.

Read more: What is Culture Integration? A Key Priority for Organizations When Navigating Change

On demand webinar. Watch now. Strategic Employee Connections:  Driving Culture, Belonging, Performance and Retention after M&As and Restructures

Social learning for employee onboarding

The quality of onboarding when a new employee joins your organization impacts everything from their productivity to their retention. Studies have found that new hire satisfaction increases by as much as 36% when they have an onboarding buddy

Implementing social learning opportunities into your onboarding process allows new hires to unlock valuable insights from their new peers while building connections with their new team members. This not only helps orient new hires to role-specific skills but sets them up for success as they navigate the processes, culture, and politics of a brand-new workplace.

It also gives them direct access to experienced managers who can provide leadership-specific insights into effective leadership styles, decision-making processes, and communication strategies.

10KC Onboarding Solution. Engage new hires with a supportive onboarding experience that increases time to productivity. Learn more.

Social learning for early talent

Early talent is often hungry for growth opportunities. However, when individuals are just entering the workforce, meeting new people is naturally  even more challenging.And within a large organization, the sheer volume of new grads and early talent can make it near-impossible to offer training programs that meet the needs of every employee. 

Structured social learning experiences can provide early talent with opportunities to identify and carve out a path for their careers. For example, mentors can provide insight and shadowing opportunities, so new grads understand future career opportunities and identify skills gaps. Meanwhile, cross-functional connections give early talent a network of peers that they can lean on as they find their footing and adapt to the workforce. 

10KC Early Talent Solution. Scale early talent mentorship programs to develop, retain, and engage top talent. Learn more.

Challenges with social learning at scale

It’s understandable why organizations tend to default to traditional learning and skills development methods.

Social learning—while highly effective—can be challenging to execute in a way that actually makes an impact. Unlike traditional training, it's often been left to chance or relegated to sporadic initiatives like general mentorship, occasional networking events, or casual gatherings for pizza. These piecemeal efforts, while well-intentioned, often fail to align with specific talent development goals or broader business objectives, limiting their impact.

The good news is that there are ways to tackle these challenges head-on while reaping the benefits of social learning. But it’s still worth understanding the challenges that come with bringing social learning into your organization so you can be better prepared to efficiently maximize its potential.

Some of the challenges with attempting to leverage social learning at scale include:

Misalignment with specific goals

Traditional social learning, often relegated to ad-hoc interactions or general mentorship programs, lacks the structure needed to drive targeted learning outcomes. Serendipitous connections, while valuable, aren’t guaranteed to align with the specific development needs or organizational goals you’re trying to impact. Without a clear focus, social learning efforts can become scattered and fail to move the needle on critical skill gaps or knowledge transfer.

Unintentional conversations

Even when connections are facilitated, conversations in traditional social learning settings often lack the depth and direction needed to foster meaningful skill development or knowledge transfer. Casual discussions, while enjoyable and potentially informative, may not delve into the specific topics or challenges that are most relevant to an individual's growth or the organization's goals. Without a clear purpose and guidance, these interactions can remain surface-level, failing to unlock the full potential of social learning for both employees and the business.

Limited visibility into learning interactions

Social learning that occurs organically within the workplace often happens in the shadows, leaving organizations with limited visibility into what's actually happening. It’s almost impossible for organizations to track and understand the interactions taking place, who is connecting with whom, and what knowledge is being shared. This lack of visibility makes it challenging to identify areas where support or intervention is needed, ensure alignment with strategic goals, and assess the overall effectiveness of social learning initiatives.

Difficulty measuring impact

Like most business initiatives, the expectation is that investment in learning is tied to specific outcomes. So when quiz scores and module completion are much easier to measure, it’s hard to blame organizations for relying on traditional learning solutions. This can make it challenging to justify investments in social learning, where the impact is often less immediately visible.

It's important to understand how social learning can generate a wealth of valuable data, in addition to qualitative feedback, especially with the right tools in place. Data-dashboards can help you track engagement, pinpoint knowledge gaps, and assess the tangible impact of social learning on performance and business outcomes.

How to build workplace relationships that drive performance with social learning 

There’s a time and place for formal training methods. But the reality is that focusing solely on formal learning leaves a development gap that puts your organization and your employees at a massive disadvantage.

Social learning fills this gap by creating an environment where employees can learn from each other’s experiences and insights to develop a high-performing workforce. 

While traditionally difficult to operationalize, the right technology makes it possible to power social learning at scale. 

10KC: The solution for strategic social learning

10KC powers performance through essential workplace relationships and knowledge sharing at scale. Our platform transforms social learning from a haphazard process into a strategic initiative, ensuring alignment, intentionality, visibility, and measurable impact.

  • Strategic Alignment: 10KC's platform moves beyond random connections by strategically matching employees based on their skills, goals, and organizational attributes. This ensures that every interaction is purposeful and aligned with specific development needs, both for individuals and the organization as a whole.
  • Goal-Oriented Programs: Utilize structured pathways and guided discussion prompts that align with specific talent development goals. This ensures that conversations are focused, intentional, and geared towards achieving specific outcomes.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Get unprecedented visibility into the social learning process. Organizations can now track who is connecting with whom, what topics are being discussed, and how knowledge is being shared. This data-driven approach enables targeted support and intervention, ensuring that social learning aligns with strategic objectives and maximizes impact.
  • Measurable ROI: By providing robust analytics and data dashboards, 10KC allows organizations to quantify the impact of social learning on employee engagement, skill development, knowledge transfer, and overall performance. This enables businesses to clearly demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of their social learning initiatives and make data-driven decisions to continually improve their learning strategies.
Make social learning your organization’s competitive advantage. See how 10KC helps you build workplace connections  that drive performance. Book a demo.e

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