The Benefits of Social Learning Environments


Social Learning Environments for Corporate Training

The world of Learning & Development (L&D) can sometimes feel crowded with the newest trends and buzzwords. But in the case of Social Learning, while the term itself may be recently trending, the science behind it is anything but new. In fact, social, collaborative learning is one of humankind’s oldest forms of sharing information and building new knowledge. Today, more and more L&D teams are investing in these social learning environments, which foster the kind of on-demand, continuous sharing of knowledge that happens organically in social networks. But outside of its innate fit with the inner workings of our minds, what are the specific benefits of social learning, and how can you leverage them to improve corporate learning outcomes? Let’s find out. 

What is Social Learning? 

We are social animals, and the informal channels through which information is shared, behavior is observed, and connections are established are some of the most efficient and effective means of learning that exist. The pedagogy behind social learning capitalizes on the simple truth that we learn best when we observe another person and imitate his or her behavior and actions. In corporate learning applications, it is the L&D’s departments job to then foster these observations, often through technology, and align them with larger corporate learning goals. 

Formally defined, social learning in the corporate training context is the sharing of information and knowledge among peers (including mentor-mentee relationships) via everyday interactions. These interactions can take place side-by-side or can be facilitated through technology – i.e. blogs, direct messaging, discussion boards, and social media applications. When used as a form of training, these learning channels are leveraged to also promote corporate learning goals and content. For example, the discussion boards and peer feedback forms that we build into our business simulations here at HFX allow participants to reinforce the core lessons and takeaways from the game through the social learning channels provided. 

How Does Social Learning Benefit Your Business?

Lower costs, higher returns

Of the many benefits of social learning, there is perhaps none greater than the fact that, in so many ways, social learning doesn’t cost a thing. There are, of course, direct costs for formalizing, maintaining, and monitoring social learning networks in a corporate setting. However, once set into motion, much of the learning that occurs thereafter, by definition, flows organically. This is good news when it comes time to demonstrate the ROI on any social learning investment. 


By embracing and formalizing the interactive learning processes we as humans naturally gravitate toward, social learning can be an especially effective approach to corporate training. It helps trainers leverage the 70:20:10 rule of learning. Here’s how it works:

  • 70% of learning happens through experiential learning – that is, hands-on exposure for skill and knowledge building  
  • 20% happens through social channels – human interaction, online or in the office, where peer & mentor observation help deliver information
  • 10% happens through formal learning – traditional training delivery formats like workshops, lectures, compliance assignments

The social approach capitalizes on this rule by aligning the organic, social learning that is already taking place within the organization with existing training content and goals. 

Saves Time

Because social learning happens continuously, learning goals can be achieved at a faster pace when it is adopted as a corporate training approach. Rather than waiting for a weekly or monthly training seminar, news ideas, skills, and knowledge can be shared through social channels as often as needed. Where quick results matter most, this can be a big advantage of the social learning approach. 

Accommodates today’s corporate learner

Integrating social learning elements can help align corporate training goals with the needs and wants of a changing global workforce. It is estimated that by 2025, over 75% of the workforce will be composed of millennial workers. That influx is changing how L&D departments understand and deliver on learner needs.  According to the 2019 LinkedIn Future of Workplace Learning report, over half of all learners value more social, collaborative environments—both in the office and when they are engaged with online learning. 

Social Learning is happening whether you like it or not

Whether you’re paying attention to it or not, social learning is happening within your business as we speak. With that in mind, embracing social learning channels as a means for delivering key corporate learning content seems like a no-brainer. The simple, three-step checklist below can help you begin to integrate social learning into your overall corporate training approach: 

  1. Be transparent about formally engaging with social learning – Make sure your team understands what social learning is and how you will be leveraging it moving forward
  2. Provide technology training where needed – For online social learning channels, such as a project management tool or new employee discussion board platform
  3. Encourage feedback – Ask your team what they think of newly implemented changes and how they can be improved

If you would like to learn more about social learning, and how it can help improve your corporate learning goals, contact us today