Sure, workplace learning and professional development can be done alone. But want it to have a real impact? Make it collaborative.
Being connected to others and making contributions together creates a sense of belonging that transforms businesses and organizations… and their culture.
And the simplest way to promote this idea of collaborative learning and growing? Take a social learning approach and develop a community of practice (CoP).
In short, communities of practice bring together a group of people who have a shared learning need or interest and create formal and informal ways for the group to engage with one another — resulting in learning and positive impact on their own “practice,” or work.
Not surprisingly, modern communities of practice have largely moved online to provide ease and flexibility for workplace learning efforts.
Are you ready to create your own community of practice? Effective communities require four key functions — all of which need to be brought into your virtual learning ecosystem.
Cue the Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire “Who’s coming with me?” gif! It may seem simple, but if you’re going to offer professional learning, you need to give participants both structured (e.g. virtual mentor program) and unstructured opportunities (e.g. instant messaging) to explore, investigate and connect together. By working together, learning is more enjoyable and understanding is deeper.
Okay, okay… we’ve gotten together and learned some cool stuff. Now what do we get to do with it? We’re glad you asked!
Your community needs to allow space for your participants to share their ideas, concepts, tools and stories both inside and outside the community. In other words, let’s put what you learned into practice. Encourage your team to share their new learnings with a professional organization, draft an article for an industry publication or try a newly-learned technique in your daily job.
The end goal of your workplace learning and development is new knowledge creation… not content dissemination, right? You’re not talking at your team; you’re asking your colleagues to engage, share ideas and network with like-minded people in hopes of inspiring new, collective knowledge that creates valuable, lasting impact to the organization.
One of the best ways to create sustained engagement among your colleagues? Empower and recognize your members!
Celebrate participant achievements on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Keep tabs on which community members are highly engaged and spotlight them. Better yet, empower them to become facilitators and leaders. Digital badges and micro-credentials are a great way to reward this effort! And, don’t forget to consider opportunities for open recognition beyond traditional credentials. This short article gives some insight into what that looks like.
Lastly, we need to elevate the collective knowledge that your community has produced – not just for the benefit of the current participants… but for future ones! All the tools, ideas and concepts learned by the group should be transparent, easily accessible and sharable. A digital platform like Participate makes this easy and seamless.
Learning with and from one another – today and tomorrow. That makes for effective workplace learning and development.