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Making Social Learning A Habit In The Workplace

Making Social Learning a Habit in the Workplace

David Bakker | September 11, 2014

When two employees who do similar jobs sit next to each other five days a week, 52 weeks a year, it’s easy for them to share tips, bounce ideas off one another and learn from each other how to do their jobs even better.

Now take those same two employees and put one out on the road or at home or even just in a different part of the office and then it becomes a little tougher to maintain that environment of social learning.

At Arraya, we want our employees to feel empowered to be innovators. We want them to always have one eye on what they or the company could do better or should focus on next. But that sort of innovation rarely exists in a bubble. So we knew we needed to foster an atmosphere that encouraged employees to always collaborate, pool their knowledge and learn from each other.

The thing is, many of our employees don’t spend a lot of time in the office. They’re either out in the field working with customers, hammering out solutions or maybe they’re just working from home for the day.

Whatever the reason, those remote employees still had plenty they could bring to the table that others could learn from. The flip side of that was also true as it was just as important for remote employees to stay in the loop with their office-based co-workers.

We decided to strengthen those connections by tapping into a platform employees were already well-versed in: social media.

People are already used to social learning on the Web. They get their breaking news from Twitter, their social life updates from Facebook, step-by-step instruction guides from Youtube and so on. It just made sense to incorporate that concept into how our employees communicate, collaborate and learn in the workplace.

We set up a corporate Yammer site to give employees an on-the-job social media avenue they could use to quickly pin links, files, and notes to groups specific to a project or customer. They could crowd-source ideas and build off the research their co-workers had already been doing.

But just because employees were comfortable with social media, we couldn’t just count on that comfort automatically translating into them using it. And if using it didn’t become a habit, like checking Facebook and Twitter each day (or multiple times a day) is for most, then we’d be right back at square one.

One of the best ways to develop that habit was to work from the top down. Our managers and supervisors took the lead and began posting updates, questions, success stories, and more on Yammer.

As more and more employees started to sign up with Yammer, leaders made it a point to regularly interact with staffers even if they weren’t on their teams. This could be something as small as “liking” one of their posts. Seeing that commitment from managers and supervisors inspired employees to really embrace Yammer and make checking it and posting to it a part of their daily routines.

Once it became a habit, Yammer became yet another method for our employees to learn from each other, work collaboratively and innovate as groups. The best part is they now have that ability no matter where they’re working from on a given day.