Do you have a great company culture? Are your employees motivated and engaged? Or do you sometimes feel like everyone in your boat is rowing in a different direction? You’re not alone. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Culture and Engagement Report, 87% of organizations identify culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. If you fall in this majority, consider the power of social learning to help turn your boat in the right direction.
Social learning has a technical definition for trainers and educators, but in this article, it refers to any learning people do informally and cooperatively. This includes teamwork, mentoring, coaching, and even popping down the hall to ask a question. Humans are natural social learners, and your employees are learning from each other right now.
You can harness that natural process to foster the elements of a great company culture:
- Performance focus
Build trust across the organization.
People who don’t trust each other will not work well together. Plus, they won’t enjoy working with each other and won’t go the extra mile for the team. Research reported by the Kellogg School of Management suggests people trust each other when each feels the other is competent, open and benevolent.
Although we often make snap decisions about whether someone is trustworthy, shared experiences can help build a connection over time.
- Peer-to-peer learning helps employees appreciate their co-workers’ competence.
- Sharing tribal knowledge increases the sense the openness and belonging in the group.
- And when team members help each other learn, they develop feelings of mutual goodwill.
Focus on feedback for better performance.
As reported in a recent Achievers.com article, industry leaders like GE, Accenture, and Microsoft have realized that regular feedback works better to improve employee performance than annual reviews and rankings. And that feedback can come from peers as well as managers.
- Mentors and coaches helping team members acquire new skills provide real time assessment, which speeds learning.
- Regular feedback also helps keep employees engaged. They get the satisfaction of improving at their jobs, and they feel valued by the company.
- When employees work with each other to improve, they’ll begin working with leadership as well. They’ll be more likely to share observations and experiences that can help managers make better decisions.
Give employees the reins.
In his book, Your Brain at Work, David Rock describes autonomy as one of the major factors in general happiness. People who have more control over their lives feel better about themselves. They’re also more empowered to create positive changes.
Formal training typically minimizes autonomy. Instructors determine the activities and content. Learners have little impact on the endeavor. But in social learning, people can determine what works best for them.
- They can pursue topics that most interest them and choose how they want to learn.
- They also become responsible for what they learn. They go out and seek skills rather than passively absorb them.
- This accountability helps people take initiative in other business areas as well.
Strengthen team cooperation.
We all learned how to cooperate in kindergarten, but that doesn’t mean we’re willing to do it at work. Employees constantly balance whether to act in their own best interest or in that of the group. But if they have a strong connection to the group, they’re more likely to view their interests and the groups’ as one and the same.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded that shared knowledge increases people’s willingness to work together.
- Peer-to-peer learning creates a body of shared knowledge that binds a team together.
- Employees get used to each others’ working styles as they teach and learn from each other.
- When people are used to helping each other on training goals, they’ll cooperate on other projects as well.
Informal, peer-to-peer learning activities alone will not change your company culture from dismal to dazzling. Cultural change takes time and leadership, but encouraging employees to learn from and teach each other will eventually create a more cohesive and engaged team, laying the groundwork for the ideal team.
Want to make social learning work better for your company? Learn more here.