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Using Mentoring to Increase Social Learning

Posted by Varavooru, Mahesh at Monday, 12/17/2012 10:11 am
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3.4 from 23 votes
Much of what children learn is taken in through observation and then demonstrated through imitation. As every parent knows, “social learning” can lead to some humorous, even unintended, results.

But this method of learning isn’t just for children. Social learning continues in college and even into the workplace. College students often exhibit behaviors they are observing and trying on to figure out whether it suits them. Workplace social learning can be expressed as a good situation that catches on, and, a bad behavior that starts showing up in multiple employees.

So imagine if you could positively influence the social learning in your company using a mentorship program that paired senior, experienced, well-regarded employees with the rest of your workforce? Employees of all types could benefit, whether new hires, those climbing the company ladder, and even those lagging behind performance expectations.

Sociologist Albert Bandura in the 1970s described social learning theory by pointing out that “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.”

And yet, so many companies continue to expend far more on employee recruitment than on their mentoring programs. Many companies offer employees support beyond their initial training sessions. Most companies rely upon phrases like “open door policy” or “consult your Human Resources liaison” to scoot an employee back to his desk to continue to try to figure things out on his own.

A few select companies have figured out that creating robust mentorship programs not only results in better decision-making among employees, but also creates greater cohesion in their workforce. When employees have the company-sponsored opportunity to work together to achieve performance goals, employee job satisfaction rises, as does productivity and employee retention.

In the ideal workplace mentorship program, social learning takes place to a company’s benefit because the mentors are carefully selected by the company from among its critical employees. Those employees who possess superior knowledge, skill, and loyalty make excellent mentors because they impart a combination of wisdom along with company values. In this way, mentors serve as the example in a social learning dynamic.

Of course, the company mentorship program needs the right technology for it to function in the global economy. When mentors and mentees are at the same physical location or reasonable proximity, facilitating a one-on-one interaction allows employees to naturally develop a strong connection. When employees are scattered, working shifts or flextime, or have already retired, connecting mentors and mentees requires a specialized platform to try to approximate the space in between them.

One way to create that virtual mentoring connection to increase social learning is through the Mutual Force mentoring platform, which includes the ability to capture the mentor-mentee communication into .pdf format. Memorializing the mentorship creates a lasting record for the mentee, which can also turn the mentee into a trusted advisor. It can also serve as a searchable database on a company-wide basis, giving the mentor and mentee the added incentive to thoroughly discuss various topics to create a living resource for the company as a whole.