When we think of engagement, the natural connection is activity. One of the best ways to encourage learner engagement is through active participation; workplace learning should be something your employees actively do rather than something that happens to them.
Leave ideas of obligatory trust falls and awkward silences at the door. Active engagement in modern learning moves beyond standard team-building exercises and towards collaboration and participation in the digital sphere.
What is collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is, in essence, the process of learning together as part of a community (in our case a workforce). There are a wide range of ways this can be achieved and with more learning technology developing all the time, the possibilities are only increasing.
“Collaborative learning is one of the most important sources of knowledge-sharing and its value to your organisation shouldn’t be underestimated”
Why is collaborative learning important?
Whether it’s an in-house campaign generation session, off-site client meeting, or a group chat on WhatsApp, engaging in conversation about concepts and ideas simply makes the process more interesting. Beyond that, it helps us to be more creative, attentive, and engaged in our activities.
In a study from Stanford University, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology1, participants who acted collaboratively stuck to their tasks for 64% longer than those who worked alone.
Studies like this show us the impact of collaboration on basic human behaviour. This of course carries through into learning, in the workplace or otherwise. Collaborative learning also carries benefits for your organisation as a whole as it is one of the most important sources of knowledge-sharing and its value shouldn’t be underestimated.
Before we look at how to encourage collaborative learning, let’s look at some statistics.
According to a 2018 study conducted by Deloitte Insights:
- Make use of online platforms popular with your workforce (Whatsapp, Facebook, etc)
When speaking at Learning Technologies 2019, Gemma Critchley from Aviva said “Follow the bright spots” – a phrase that has stuck with us weeks after the conference. Sometimes, encouraging new ways of working such as collaboration isn’t about creating a brand-new tool or developing new technology. Sometimes, we simply need to encourage our employees to use their current tools and applications in a new way.
Alongside collaboration functions in your LMS, it is important to investigate which collaboration platforms your teams are already using. From Slack to Whatsapp groups, meeting your learners halfway will encourage greater engagement in your learning strategies and discussions.
- Approach employees who organise group events/chats
Speaking of group chats, it’s not uncommon for any given office or workplace to have a fantasy football league or a Slack channel about pets of the office. If you catch wind of these group chats, it’s worth finding out who organises them. These employees already have social influence, so it can be worth approaching them to help you organise collaborative spaces to work outside of formalised training.
There are many turns of phrase to explain the idea of leading by example and one of our favourites, as heard at Learning Technologies 2019, was “drink your own Champagne”. This doesn’t mean lavish celebrations without anyone else around you, it simply means that you shouldn’t expect others to try something you haven’t tried yourself.
Thinking of setting up a competition within your organisation for example? Make sure your L&D departments set an example and are some of the first to enter. Introducing a new course onto your LMS? Make sure to test run it before sending it out to the masses. Collaboration starts with leadership and example setting, so don’t be afraid to take the reins and jump straight in with collaboration yourself.
- Ask your employees what collaboration means to them
As we said earlier, learning is something that your employees should actively take part in, not something that should happen to them. With this in mind, it’s always important to get them involved in the conversation. Whether you’re sending out surveys, emails, notifications in your LMS, or simply sitting down and having a chat with people, ask your employees what collaboration means to them.
This can go a long way to helping you form an effective learning strategy, as well as motivating your employees by getting them involved in the process of your ongoing L&D projects. Meaningful conversations like this one are a huge part of collaboration, so taking the time to sit down with people and ask this simple question is another way you can lead by example.
- Provide quantifiable outcomes
Understanding what is happening and why it is happening go a long way to boosting engagement. Not applying simply to learning, or even the workplace, this natural curiosity and need to understand fuels our drive to succeed. Context is everything.
It may seem contradictory, but we’re living and working in world where technology increases both remote/individual working and the need for collaboration in the workplace. While there is a growing need for collaboration, there is a chance that employees may need a little guidance as to the purpose of it; how it will impact them and not just the organisation or management. Providing quantifiable outcomes, objectives, and the genuine impact of this collaboration is a great place to start.
- Vary the forms of collaboration
Just as there’s no one set way to learn, there’s no one set way to collaborate. Whether you’re calling in-house team meetings, using multi-national WhatsApp or Slack group chats, or coordinating a national LMS-based campaign, the most important thing is to find a way to engage your employees in what is relevant to them.
You know the old saying “two heads are better than one”? This is the bare bones of collaboration. Taking employees out of there regular working routine in order to collaborate will boost engagement by providing new stimulus. That is why it’s important to mix things up, otherwise all you’re doing is adding something new into their routine. Do not be afraid to branch out and try new forms of collaboration, big or small, and find what works for your organisation.
- Incentivise with development
Career development and self-directed learning have been huge focuses for both L&D departments and individuals over the last year and these are only set to increase. Sit back and think about your own career for a moment: how many times have you moved jobs, companies, careers, because you felt there was a lack of opportunity for development?
There is no such thing as a job for life any more, so keep your employees engaged with collaboration through the promise of personal and career development. It’s important to come through on those promises, otherwise you risk losing engagement and decreasing morale. Continuous learning and development is a promise worth keeping, as it benefits everyone in the long run.
Now we’ve looked at the fundamentals of collaborative learning, let’s take a closer look at the importance of valuing input from your learners in the realms of the LMS and overall learning strategy.