Social Learning in Virtual Companies
When you run a virtual company or manage a virtual team, the way you ensure capacity development differs from traditional teams. While in a normal business setup, you can easily bring everyone together for an in-house training, in a virtual setup, things work differently. With the trend of more and more virtual companies, it is important to look at how capacity development can be done in a remote and virtual setup. A combination of social learning and remote learning is key for any virtual company or team.
Social Learning outperforms Remote Learning
The theory of social learning is based on the idea that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others. Social learning is a typical element of child education based on the concept that children will behave based on what they see at home. In the work context, social learning happens for example at the coffee machine. Two people bump into each other, share ideas and thoughts, and walk away knowing a little bit more in the process. We recently wrote about the importance of planning small-talk moments in virtual teams.
An interesting study from Bloomfire suggests that in approximately 70 to 90 percent of all workplaces learning happens informally, from knowledge sharing and mentorship among project team members to casual break-room chats. The same study says that 87% of employees identify social learning as essential while only 37% feel the same way about formal company training.
Corporate learning is a mayor concern of companies
How to transfer knowledge or how to make your employees acquire new knowledge is a major concern of any business. Billions of US dollars are spent every year on training courses for employees. However, in many cases, those courses are falling short because of the lack to manage to keep everyone engaged. Thus, online learning and micro-learning platforms have been created to provide learning content on-demand and in small digestible pieces.
The best way, however, to learn something new is when the learning is relevant and you can apply it immediately. Apply this thought for social learning: you are stuck with an issue – could be for example a functionality in a software product. You talk to a colleague at the water cooler and the other person shares his/her experience and helps you to immediately solve your problem. Maybe you learned about that specific functionality already in a classroom training course but because either there was so much content you could not remember everything, or that specific piece of information was not relevant to you at that time or you were simply disengaged.
Looking at the future, capabilities of learning and curiosity of employees will become as much important as the level of industry knowledge. The future of work is deeply integrated, collaborative and global. Thus, a corporate culture which encourages social learning is the key for any corporate in the future.