Social Learning – The Forgotten Part of 70:20:10?

The concept of 70:20:10 learning has been with us since 1996. Organisations continue an apparently inexorable march towards the considered perfect balance between Learning in a Workplace Environment (the 70), Social Learning (the 20) and Formal Learning (the 10) that traditionally provided the structure that drove organisational learning & development.


As the power of the 10 fades and more focus in placed on the 70, it is often the middle 20 of Social Learning that is forgotten. Ever since Bandura initially suggested that “Most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action”, L&D departments have sought to harness this concept for their own powerful gain.

Current pressure is on organisations to reduce the number of face to face interventions through a desire to offer either self-driven learning opportunities or simply reduce the high costs and lifestyle impact associated with out of the workplace centralised training. However, if we are no longer placing our colleagues in the same locational developmental melting pot, how can we ensure that the advantages of social learning are not lost to us entirely?

The value of Social Learning is highlighted by the importance that learners themselves place upon it. In the 2015 Towards Maturity Learner Voice Survey, 66% of those surveyed stated that they found Social Learning either essential or very useful. A higher percentage than both Formal Learning 37% and Experiential 57%.


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Data from a sample of 1,681 learners taking part in a Towards Maturity
Learning Landscape Audit 2015


Organisations have tried various technologies in the drive to meet their learners’ social needs. If we look solely at Social Media, there are a significant amount of community forums out there that were bolted onto an LMS and lie in a state of semi-hibernation. On the other side of the divide there are the giants of Social Media through which there are billions of conversations happening on any given day. So what should an L&D organisation do when deciding how to effectively use Social Learning.

Checklist to Facilitate Social Learning

  • Do L&D staff know how employees are using social media generally for personal use
  • Are L&D staff actively using social learning tools in their own daily learning and work?
  • Are L&D staff exploiting employees’ use of social media to support learning in the workplace?
  • Are L&D staff thinking beyond simply adding a discussion space to a course to encourage social 
 learning?  Are L&D staff actively supporting social collaboration through ‘working out loud’ and other sharing 
  • Is there a culture in the workplace of welcoming new ideas and innovation?
  • Is there a culture in the workplace of self governance and learner autonomy?

Simply creating a blank space will not drive use and traffic. A decision to either create your space where the traffic already is, such as a private group on Facebook or a hashtag on Twitter, may provide instant ‘stickiness’ for your learners. This could lead to genuine use and the sharing of experience and information promoting learning.

Allowing people to access Social Media at work may present security challenges. Also using Social Media in the workplace has previously been frowned upon from a performance angle. If you face these issues, then you will need to give learners a strong reason to go somewhere other than where they are used to going. Firms need to understand that learners need to take ownership of their own virtual social space and drive the benefit for themselves. The power of peer excitement might just cause enough of a pull to create the traffic.

In the very first instance, plan something that drives the learners to collaborate, like a joint project with a shared working space online or exclusive access to experts at set times for Q&A. Offer valued prizes such as an hours’ mentoring by a senior leader for the most valuable contributor to the community (as judged by their peers).

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About Graham Hyde

A highly effective, organised and analytical learning and development professional with solid experience in project managing, scoping, designing, delivering and evaluating highly effective learning solutions. A self-starter and quick learner with the ability to adopt new practices, Graham possesses a strong understanding of the use of blended learning.