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Why social learning is making new friends.

We have all participated in some form of social learning in the workplace. Even if you don’t think you use social media for learning personally or professionally, you have likely talked with a colleague at the water cooler about the strategy she uses to continuously close big sales. Or you’ve entered your notes about a meeting with a customer into your company’s CRM. Perhaps you forwarded a great article about industry trends to your coworkers. These are all examples of social learning—acquiring from and sharing with friends and colleagues valuable information.

People have been learning from each other since the beginning of time. It’s human nature. However, technology is reshaping the process and changing the meaning of the term “social learning,” and Generation Y is changing the way it is used in the workplace. Born after 1979, Gen Yers are the youngest group of professionals to join the workforce, and they’re driving social learning—whipping it into a full-fledged phenom.

This group will soon make up 50% of our nation’s workers. They leverage a wide range of technology and social networking tools to share information and collaborate with peers and colleagues nonstop. They share knowledge as they find it in ways that are organic and ongoing.

The result? A workplace culture that’s a far cry from same-o, same-o. In some companies, it may still feel more comfortable to disseminate information along formal channels and through a top-down hierarchical approach or in structured settings. But as we learned from Facebook’s Stuart Crabb at ASTD TechKnowledge, workplaces that are thriving with social learning—and indeed the new economy—are those that encourage the ongoing info sharing and collaboration that Gen Yers crave and embrace the technology that supports it.

Social learning requires that everyone in a company have the ability to both teach and learn anytime they want or need to. This allows every employee to support company growth, knowledge sharing, training, employee development and satisfaction. Social workplaces provide every person in the company with tools that allow them to learn in a way that is fun, fast and accessible anytime and anyplace.

With busy schedules and a wide array of roles and priorities within organizations, this may sound like a tall order. However, technology and Generation Y are here to help. Consider these ideas to help your company move faster and work smarter.

  • Apply social learning. What if your sales team could use a custom-built app on their mobile devices to demonstrate the value of your products during meetings with prospects? Pretty smart (and pretty slick).
  • Make it mobile. By making your company’s information-sharing options available both online and via mobile devices, you empower your people to teach and learn anywhere and at any time.
  • BYOD: Bring your own device. Gen Yers are especially fond of this concept. By allowing your employees to use their own mobile devices—and yes, that includes all of the personal communication that comes along with it—you are enabling them to blur the line between their professional and professional lives. What’s more, you’re demonstrating your trust in their ability to do so acceptably. Research shows that this makes them more engaged and happier long-term.
  • Join the conversation. Leverage both technology and face-to-face communication to get people excited about talking to each other. Foster a culture that is accepting of new ideas from everyone – regardless of their seniority or role within the company.

Join our social learning space at BrainBin. Collaborate with us and with others to learn in a safe, highly accessible community of learners.

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