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Harder, better, faster… Together!

Everyone agrees that they want constant learning and development at work. At the same time, not many people really experience it. Do you ever feel that after a couple of months or years in one workplace you have already learned everything you could and do not see any more growth possibilities?

Don’t worry – you’re not alone. There are many others feeling exactly the same way you do, probably even at your own workplace. Why hasn’t anybody solved this problem yet? It’s because in most workplaces learning is still treated as an individual process, even though science has already proven that learning works so much better when people do it together.

Don’t go solo!

Collaborative learning might look, at a first glimpse, counterintuitive. From our early school years we get used to learning as something that you do alone at home, after school, sitting with a book. At university, learning is something that you mostly do in a library, being silent with your headphones on. But think about the times when you met your friend after school to study together: although your parents might have claimed that “that’s not real studying!”, your experience was rather positive, wasn’t it? You probably memorized things faster, did not get bored, and most importantly had fun. Unfortunately, our patterns of “solo-learning” were transferred from school to the workplace. Apart from external trainings (which happen usually just a few times a year) we are often expected to “be independent” or “not waste others’ time”, so we spend hours reading instructions, diving into Intranet guides, getting familiar with the processes in a form of pictured workflow. Isn’t it high time to rethink this approach?

Join forces for better results

If we think about it, we have this instinct that tells us learning actively together with other people is something great. But not only that – scientific research also proves it to be accurate. First study in this area was done already in the 1970s at UC Berkeley by Uri Treisman. He found out that the factor that made some students successful versus unsuccessful were not low motivation nor family problems, but lack of collaboration. To prove this, the researcher invited minority students to a series of workshops in which teamwork was encouraged to learn and solve problems. The results were dramatic: students who participated in workshops consistently got average grades two times better than the class average. The idea was then replicated in many other universities in the US with the same results. Other studies have shown that students working in small groups usually learn more of what is being taught, but also retain the information longer and enjoy learning more (Beckman, 1990; Chickering & Gamson, 1991).

It can work for you, too!

One might argue that all the research has been done on students, not employees, so it is hard to tell if the same result applies to  workplace. Many organizations show that this is possible. Here are some tips on how to, as a manager, support collaborative learning

1. Create the right culture.

That’s the most obvious, but also the most important one. Constant collaborative learning must be something that everyone believes in and embraces it. First, make people understand that spending time on learning from each other is not a waste of time, but one of the most valuable part of their work. Secondly, if you are a manager, be the first example for how it should work: spend your time on passionate knowledge-sharing with others. Thirdly, encourage and reward onboarding and trainings done live in groups.

2. Utilize the Best People in the right way.

The best employees should focus on work to deliver best results for the company… But not only that. Help them become mentors to others. Make it even a part of their responsibilities. This will make them feel appreciated on one hand, and on the other- motivate all other employees, help them improve their performance by learning from the best, and finally feel happy about their own growth.

3. Get the right software.

Make proper use of technology and use it to support the culture of mutual learning. There’s a wide selection  of tools for organizing trainings,  connecting trainers with trainees, gathering people around certain problems. Rapidly growing HR-tech sector can be of great help when building a mutual growth-oriented organization. And that’s what we’re committed to at Devinity [link to divinity.io here] – connecting developers across organization to utilize power of collective learning.

Let them grow!

It is crucial to remember that supporting collaborative learning does not mean that individuals can  be forgotten. On the contrary, for collaborative learning to be effective, both “group goals” as well as “individual accountability” must be in place. Mutual development does not exclude personal learning either- they both can be  each other’s amplifiers. Facilitating collaborative learning at workplaces is now not a nice-to-have, but rather a must, if the an organization wants to be successful. It is mostly important in the light of the Millennials (people born after 1980) dominating the workforce. What they value most at workplaces is not money, but rather sense of growth and mastery. Enabling people to achieve that through collaboration with others will help them become engaged and simply happy at work. And this is what will drive solid, sustainable and long term growth of your company.