In an October 2013 American Management Association survey on analytical skills in the workplace, Human Resources and Sales were the two functions that lacked these skills the most, according to respondents.  People in Finance were seen as the most highly skilled in analytical ability, with 58% rated as expert or advanced, as compared to just 27% in HR and 34% in Sales.

But what if people in HR and Sales could tap into the knowledge of their colleagues in Finance so that they could improve their analytical ability?  Companies don’t need formal training to help employees improve this and other skills—they just need employees who are willing to share what they know, and people who are open to learning from their peers.  What they need is people who are committed.

When it comes to social learning, people fall into one of three categories: the crowd, the community or the committed. crowd-community-committed

The crowd is as vast and wide as a group can be.  In an enterprise-wide effort, it would be made up of all employees in an organization.  These are all the people a colleague could connect with.  That doesn’t mean a person will or even should connect with every single person in the crowd, but it does mean there is the option.

The community consists of people who have a common interest in a development area or who have insight in that area that they can share.  This group of people has more in common with one another than they would in just the broad, general crowd, but it does not mean that everyone in the community is actively taking part in social learning with their colleagues.

The committed are the ones who are actively connected, who are sharing and/or receiving knowledge, and who are personally engaged with colleagues in order to further learning.  This is where personal and purposeful learning take place—among the group of people who are committed to knowledge sharing with a purpose and who willingly engage with their colleagues.

People who make up the committed group are not bound by roles in the group, meaning that people can shift from learner to advisor or vice versa.  As someone gains experience and expertise—say with those critical analytical skills that many of us seem to be lacking—they will willingly and openly bring those new insights to their learning network.  And as people find emerging areas where they could use new insights or fresh perspectives, they can access their network as a learner, possibly connecting with new colleagues who have the expertise they need and in turn growing their committed learning network.

In order for people to make the most of their personal networks for learning and knowledge sharing, they must become part of the committed, rather than staying on the fringes as part of the crowd or community.  This is when learning leaders come in.  We can help people make the leap to being committed by reminding them that committed learning is:

  • A fluid group of learners and advisors that shifts and grows as needs dictate.
  • Unencumbered by roles, functions, age or location.
  • A network of 5-15 collaborators who come together to share, learn, inspire and support one another.

Social learning happens every day in companies, regardless of if employees have software to use or not to make it happen.  It is a natural way for people to learn and is a growing demand from the workforce.  By helping people see how they can use social learning and be committed participants, the practice will continue to flourish and be in high demand.


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