Potential of Social Learning for Career Development

Monday, 3. April 2017

by Diana Dikke, IMC AG, Germany


Today’s workforce market is characterised by both highly dynamic workplaces and high requirements on the employers’ and job seekers’ side. On the one hand, every employer expects to hire highly qualified and experienced people, who are experts in their field. On the other hand, also the job seekers have certain requirements on the future employer: healthy organisation culture, competent supervisors, cooperative team and training & career development opportunities. These are “must have” qualities each organisation needs to demonstrate to attract high potential employees. Starting with the recruitment process, through onboarding, supervision, rewarding, and promotion, the companies have to ensure the retention and encouragement of talents, who embody organisation’s innovation and growth potential.

One of the latest trends in corporate learning and competency development is the social learning, which accommodates not only the need for the improvement of employees’ skills, but also supports communication and exchange between different divisions and hierarchy levels. As the result, enhances corporate culture and team spirit. How to organise a social learning process across geographically spread locations, involving colleagues working at customers’ sites, and even those working completely remotely? - The social learning does not have to take place in one room! Modern learning technologies, especially mobile learning apps, allow keeping in touch and learning together with workmates from any location.

Social Learning Network

Let’s have a look at an application scenario for such social learning tool.

Imagine an employee, let’s call him Mike, who is working as a business consultant and wants to move to the sales area, as the next step of his career. Mike has a broad network of contacts within and outside his company, but he lacks negotiation experience. Mike decides to use the Social Learning Tool of his company to develop his negotiation skills. So he installs the app on his mobile phone and joins the learning group “Improving negotiation skills”. In this group, Mike meets colleagues from different locations also wanting to work on their negotiation competency. Together, they find learning resources, such as articles and videos on the internet, discuss them and define steps to transfer their newly acquired knowledge into practice. Some colleagues share ideas they gained in presence workshops and conferences. Others document their experiences from real situations, where they had to negotiate, be it in business or private context. In the learning group, Mike and his colleagues define own learning goals and document activities and progress. With this, they track the relevance of their contributions to the group using a social rating mechanism (“likes”) and compare own engagement level with the engagement of other group members on a leader board.

Of course, competency development and learning taking place using such tool have to correspond to the goals of the company. So how is it reached?  A Learning & Development Coach, let’s call her Elisa, analyses business development plans of the company, as well as staffing and competency needs related to those plans, using the DEVELOP system. She interviews employees, identifying their career desires and competency gaps, and creates a learning and development plan for each staff member. After that, based on her planning, Elisa creates learning groups in the Social Learning Tool (such as the group “Improving negotiation skills” above) and invites employees to join particular groups according to their qualification needs. Elisa monitors the learning process in each group, monitors the discussions, and gives hints. This allows her to be aware of the activity and progress of each colleague. After that, in a review interview, Elisa discusses the achievements and promotion plans with her coaches. This way, Elisa and Mike work together towards the enhancement of Mike’s negotiation skills and his future position in the sales department.

The DEVELOP project offers a Social Learning Tool supporting this and other social learning scenarios. To learn more about the tool, have a look at our brochure here.