Social Learning – What It Is And How To Apply It In A Workplace

Since man is a social animal by nature, social experiences are critical to our growth at all stages of life. Learning is all about how we communicate with people in all aspects of our lives: we speak to them, listen to what they have to say, and then try to incorporate or understand what they have to say (and vice-versa).

Today’s businesses will benefit from social learning to keep up with the speed of their industry. Organizations increasingly rely on social learning to engage e-learning opportunities for their employees, clients, and partners. The idea is more than just a buzzword, and forward-thinking companies are gradually embracing it to promote collective learning and its integration into the flow of work to boost organizational efficiency and L&D effectiveness.

What is Social Learning Theory?

Social learning theory is a hybrid of two different types of learning theories. On the one hand, the cognitive learning theory suggests that psychological influences solely dictate an individual’s learning. On the other hand, the behavioral learning theory argues that education is entirely determined by how we respond to stimuli in our environment.

In the 1950s, psychologist Albert Bandura and his doctoral student, Richard Walters, founded the social learning theory. Humans learn best when they learn together, according to a condensed social learning concept. When people are in groups of at least two, learning is encouraged as a mechanism.

Learners are not passive consumers of knowledge in social learning, which emphasizes the importance of interaction. According to social learning theory, we learn better when we observe and mimic another person’s attitudes and acts. We are motivated to learn more when we see our “role models” improve their lives and the lives of others through their behavior.

Why is social learning theory relevant?

Social learning has always been an integral part of how we learn and retain knowledge, with informal social learning accounting for 75 percent of organizational learning. But, with the rise of remote work, it’s become even more important. Different types of learning from peers, mentors, and managers and self-reflection are all part of a well-rounded approach.

There are many advantages of social learning in the workplace. Observing others shows us how to do something and what the consequences can be if we do so. Observing a colleague complete a data validation exercise in Excel results in an error message being shown when invalid data is entered. Employees may benefit from social learning because it engages them and helps them remember knowledge through practiced actions or mental and physical “rehearsal” of new skills.

How to apply social learning theory in the workplace?

In organizations, social learning is being used more often and is on the rise. In reality, it is becoming more popular than traditional education, which is based on a set of rigid curriculums. Online learning, mentorships, and social learning are modern learning approaches that replace formal education. Both of these approaches are unconventional, but they are also more flexible, affordable, effective, and applicable for workers than traditional learning methods, allowing them much more autonomy and flexibility about how they learn.

To successfully incorporate social learning in your workplace, you’ll need structure. Ad hoc social learning among your employees through social interactions is one thing; consistent and observable progress with the social learning theory necessitates a more organized approach.

Let’s look at some of Bandura’s main concepts and how to adapt them to eLearning so you can incorporate them into your learning and growth strategy:

Attention: To replicate the workplace dynamic of face-to-face encounters, video and audio would be useful. Virtual classroom technology enables real-time presentations and collaboration, enhancing the illusion that learning is social. Social learning helps the workers remain centered and learn more by reinforcing the belief that a job is new or different.

Retention: Via forums and chat features, Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as GoSkills make it simple to communicate with colleagues and fellow students. Group conversations, threaded discussions, and group learning are all examples of social learning.

Employees can learn together, at their speed, and share their profiles to reveal completed courses using an LMS. People learn by internalizing knowledge and recalling it best when they are close to when they first learned it.

Reproduction: Trying to discuss and practice the attitudes, skills, and information that your employees learned in a course will make it easier for them to apply these new skills when required. When practice is made enjoyable and engaging, such as through online competitions and events, it becomes fun and interesting.

Motivation: Gamification is a fantastic way to motivate the workers and help them remember what they’ve learned. Learning, like anything else in life, requires motivation. It makes the learning process enjoyable. When an employee does something well and unlocks different achievements, gamification offers the benefits of commitment and motivation through incentives and encouragement.


Employees who participate in social learning are better able to retain knowledge, remain involved, and apply what they’ve learned in their daily activities. Social learning is an excellent addition to any training technique, whether it is conducted online, offline, or as part of a hybrid learning program that includes microlearning, face-to-face coaching, or video training. Furthermore, since information sharing is a basic part of human existence, social learning is both cost-effective and reasonably simple to implement.