2020’s big shift to remote working led to a surge in learning and development (L&D) within organizations. According to LinkedIn Learning research, globally, 63% of those within an L&D sector agree that learning and development now has a seat at the C-Suite or CEB table. This is up from 24% that was discovered in March 2020.
When developing a strong learning culture, however, organizations must focus on making it collaborative and dynamic. You must allow your team members to explore their creativity at work, individually, and as a team. A collaborative learning culture gives everyone a voice and allows ideas to flow freely within an organization, encouraging continuous learning and fostering a growth mindset.
We will break down what a collaborative culture of learning is, its benefits, and how to create one within your organization.
What is a Collaborative Learning Culture?
Collaborative learning uses groups to enhance learning by working together. The group works together to learn new skills and concepts, solve problems, and complete tasks. Businesses can use free educational apps, workshops, webinars, or other training programs that encourage employees to listen to each other’s viewpoints, articulate those points, and gain a more complete understanding as a group.
For a collaborative learning culture to be effective, collaboration needs to be regular and deliberate. It must be ingrained into the policies and processes of an organization and manifest whenever team members approach their daily work.
Collaborative vs. Cooperative Learning
In the realm of collaborative learning, there is also cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is a type of collaborative learning, but there are important distinctions. In cooperative learning, team members are responsible for a specific area of their learning and success, and to the group.
Roles in cooperative learning are predefined, whereas collaborative learning’s roles, competencies, resources, and organization are left up to individual participants. Individuals in both structures are responsible for team learning and success, but there is less oversight involved in collaborative learning. Either of these can occur in person or online. Consider developing an online learning content strategy to help you engage in a collaborative culture and boost learning opportunities.
Why Should You Have a Collaborative Learning Culture?
If you have more traditional training programs, you may be asking yourself why you should integrate the collaborative learning culture into your organization. The more traditional approach to training employees can see poor employee engagement with the material. A collaborative learning culture encourages you and your employees to always be learning and growing, and could give you a competitive advantage over rival organizations. Other benefits include:
Teaches Critical Thinking
Developing a collaborative learning culture teaches your team how to think critically and quickly. Independent and effective decision-making is a vital skill set for any employee to aid the effective running of an organization.
An efficiently run business needs all your processes to be working in support of one other. Use document sharing platforms and interdepartmental meetings to encourage your company to learn from each other.
Allows Employees Skills and Knowledge to Shine
You or your human resource department hired your employees because of their skills and knowledge, so why let them go to waste? A collaborative learning culture, and effective learning in general, allows your employees to learn from each other. It uses the knowledge that already exists on an individual basis and makes it available to your entire team.
Promotes Active Listening
A key part of a collaborative learning culture is actively listening to your team members to offer more development opportunities. Collaborative learning culture encourages your employees to listen to each others’ ideas and constructive criticisms. The leaders in your organization will also be able to better address your employees’ concerns and implement your ideas.
Other Reasons to Develop a Collaborative Learning Culture:
- Improves interdepartmental relationships
- Improves knowledge acquisition and retention
- Promotes workplace engagement, even when working from home
- Makes employee learning an active and ongoing process
How to Develop a Collaborative Learning Culture
Now that you know what a collaborative learning culture is and why you should foster one, we need to move on to the “how.” Saying you are going to embrace this learning model does not make it happen. Take the following steps to integrate this mindset into the fabric of your company:
Evaluate Your Training Systems
The first thing you must do is to evaluate what is and is not working with your current learning culture. Evaluate your training and management systems to see how your company is already promoting collaboration. You should also consider new areas where your company can promote collaborative learning.
For example, you may want to check if you are creating effective training videos. To do this you will want to follow up with your employees. Regularly check-in to see what your team likes and dislikes about the videos and evaluate their retention of information.
Your evaluation of your training systems should be collaborative and ongoing. Even after you take steps to implement a collaborative learning culture, you should be evaluating your training systems periodically to update and improve them.
Find Ways to Problem Solve Across Teams
A collaborative learning culture finds ways to problem solve across teams. This starts by having your team learn about other teams’ roles in the company and how each team fits into the larger picture. Then your company will be better equipped to solve complex problems across teams. Your social media team, for instance, could give great insights to your salespeople on what prospective customers need to know.
If you’re a small company, you may be able to do this in the same space. However, if you are a larger company or have teams work from home, you may have to figure out ways to meet with other teams online. Use software that allows you to share screen online to teach other teams what you do for the company, and the problems you face. Other teams may have an innovative idea to solve your organization’s most pressing problems.
Dedicate the Space and Time to Peer Learning
Peer learning occurs when two or more colleagues learn together. In traditional learning, the transfer of knowledge relies on the student-teacher approach. In peer learning, any team member can request or share knowledge.
Provide resources for your curious employees and give them a space to spread their knowledge to other employees. This will slowly help you build a collaborative learning community. You can even use a free schedule template to carve out time in the week for your employees to develop and engage in peer learning.
Develop a Culture of Coaching
A coaching culture decentralizes content by utilizing your in-house experts. These experts can answer questions or contextualize your company’s more traditional forms of training. Allowing employees with specialized knowledge to take the reins on training promotes leadership and initiative across your organization.
No matter how you decide to integrate collaborative learning in your organization, it should have these key features.
Collaboration in learning requires a good working relationship and trust. Employees need to be confident in their positions at the company and the abilities of their team members. This can be achieved through team building and creating collaborative spaces, even digitally.
If you train in a digital format, you can effectively use video in eLearning to build these relationships and create trust. Make the videos interactive, allow the attendees to engage with the instructors, and utilize features like discussion boards and class chatrooms.
All collaborative learning environments need transparency and an active process of sharing information. Your organization should have transparency with its employees on its processes and goals.
Teams should also be transparent about their goals and struggles. Replace the motivations of healthy competition between teams with a vested interest in each other’s success. By sharing your goals and roadblocks with other teams, you allow them to help you. This collaboration will allow interdepartmental support and mutual success.
For example, your accounting team may be having difficulties making their current software fit the needs of the organization’s overall goals. Only through sharing this with the IT team will they figure out a QuickBooks alternative that best suits your company’s needs.
Leaders Who Model Collaboration
Find leaders who are your models for collaboration. While collaborative learning encourages learning and teaching at every level, it should start with your company’s C-suite. This gives your employees confidence that they work for a company that is interested in what they have to bring to the company. Make sure your leaders are using team chat apps to keep connected to their teams. Consider looking into the best alternative to Twist that will work for your company.
Your employees will see that your company expects respect and collaboration. This will empower them to collaborate with teams and management. Your managers will be at the frontline of implementing employee ideas and facilitating interdepartmental cooperation. Make sure your leaders reward teamwork while still recognizing individual efforts.
To create a culture of learning that’s also collaborative you need regular evaluations of how your organization communicates, learns, and works together. Through collaboration, your company will be more engaged, curious, and creative.
Use technology to help your company engage both in-person and online. There are countless options for software to help facilitate collaboration. Many of these options are SaaS solutions—software that is available by a third-party over the internet. Some SaaS examples include Google Apps, Zendesk, and Glip.
Any way you decide to engage in a collaborative learning culture, make sure it gives your teams across the entire organization the freedom to explore their creativity and share ideas. Through a positive approach to collaboration, and the provision of both formal learning and informal learning opportunities, your team will be ready to take on whatever challenges and projects that come their way.