• Mansour K. Mansour, PhD

Social Learning in the Social Enterprise

We live in an age where one’s career is more becoming a journey of learning contrary to the past where employees learned to gain skills for a career. More specifically, data shows as reported in [1] that careers nowadays span 60 years while the average tenure in a job has dropped to 4.2 years [2] and the half-life of a learned skill has reduced to only five years [3].

The resources listed below [1-7] show that the future trends in learning and development include a host of technologies and paradigms like Artificial Intelligence (AI), personalization, bite-sized learning resources, robust report & analytics, self-paced online training, gamification, responsive digital content, collaborative online learning cultures, virtual (VR) & augmented reality (AR), online mentorship, and social learning experiences.

Social learning theory was proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura which suggests that observation, imitation, and modeling play a primary role in this process [4]. In essence, he argued that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. He formulated four principles of social learning: Attention (in order to learn, you need to be paying attention), Retention (humans learn by internalizing information), Reproduction (we reproduce previously learned behavior, skills, & knowledge when required), and Motivation (we need motivation to do anything).

Social learning would require informal, non-traditional and agile learning environment. Dr. Stella Lee in her recent post published on July 10, 2018 and titled “Future Proof Your Learning Strategy” argues the following about content trends and the supporting learning technologies “Content that is social, just-in-time, just enough, and user-generated.” This is in harmony with the conclusion outlined in the Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report [7] that emphasized the need for agile organizations and agile leadership to effectively run their businesses in the future.

The agile learning environment would be a system that would facilitate the simple and easy development, sharing, and finding of digital content without the need of big investment in resources. The digital content would be in a form of small bits of digital objects or what is called micro learning. Nowadays, people do not have time for long content. This will become more true as we go on into the future. The proposed digital learning system need to be agile to adapt to the new types of learners and the new technologies. The digital environment would allow all participants to be consumers as well as contributors of knowledge. This learning model would allow organizations to leverage the knowledge of their experts. To help incentivize and encourage people to participate, organizations are encouraged to implement gamification and reward schemes.

In a nutshell, individuals need to be agile learners and must develop their critical thinking, communication, and creative problem-solving skills to survive in the social enterprise.


1- Based on 2018 Deloitte’s global survey of more than 11,000 business and HR leaders, as well as interviews with executives from some of today’s leading organizations, a new report titled “The rise of the social enterprise” was published. The report identifies the 2018 global human capital trends. Under the trend “From Careers to Experiences: New Pathways”, the authors of the report conclude, “In this year’s survey, companies list complex problem-solving, cognitive abilities, and social skills as the most needed capabilities for the future. Businesses are clamoring for workers with this blend of skills, not pure technical competency.”

2- In their Economic News Release (USDL-18-1500) issued on September 20, 2018, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2018, down from 4.6 years in January 2014.

3- Another factor that is contributing to the new trends in learning and development is "The half-life a learned skill is 5-years" - this means that much of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is irrelevant. This was reported by Mark Gibson in his blog as stated by John Seely Brown and Prof. Peter Denning.

4- Kendra Cherry reported in her recent article titled “How Social Learning Theory Works” that “Because learning is so complex, there are many different psychological theories to explain how and why people learn. A psychologist named Albert Bandura proposed a social learning theory which suggests that observation, imitation, and modeling play a primary role in this process.” She added “Bandura's social learning theory proposed that learning can also occur simply by observing the actions of others. His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. Known as observational learning, this type of learning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviors, including those that often cannot be accounted for by other learning theories.”

5- The Adobe Communication Team in their article titled “The Half-Life of Your Skills is Shrinking — Here’s What You Can Do About It” and posted on the Adobe Blog on September 18, 2018 made the following arguments:

  • By 2020, more than one-third of the skills we need, regardless of industry, will have changed.

  • Nearly half of the millennial workforce, for example, are freelancers

  • more than 55 percent of these freelancers say they’ve reskilled in the last six months, versus just 30 percent of other workers.

  • the economy of freelance, temporary, and project-based work that’s driving the marketplace toward this lifelong learning trend

  • Community colleges, for example, are increasingly working with tech- and innovation-focused industries to provide ongoing learning and skills trainings.

  • We’re seeing an emergence of the micro-credential. It’s this ‘nanodegree’ or smaller certificate. But it’s university-based so it has the prestige of Harvard or MIT or Carnegie Mellon, but it’s more of an advanced certificate.

  • Bootcamps covering a variety of topics are often hosted in a location near you, helping thousands of participants get an experiential learning deep dive.

  • Whatever the company, career, or role, whether inside or outside of the work environment, the ability to present yourself and your thoughts is a crucial skill.

  • professional learning networks (PLNs – online and in person) allow people to share knowledge and expertise with their peers, as well as access lesson plans, workshops, and a whole host of other learning resources.

  • If our collective workforce can learn how to adapt skills, expand horizons, and keep evolving as learners and leaders, then this commitment can drive even greater innovation, as well as personal satisfaction and professional growth.

  • The best advice is to develop your critical thinking, communication, and creative problem-solving skills.

6- While 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020, at least 1 in 4 workers in OECD countries is already reporting a skills mismatch with regards to the skills demanded by their current jobs. Thus, enabling and empowering workers to transform and update their skills is a key concern for businesses and societies across the globe. This is according to a recent report on workforce re-skilling by the World Economic Forum.

7- Deloitte in 2017 published a report titled “Rewriting the rules for the digital age” that is based on the results of a survey they conducted of more than 10,000 business and HR leaders from 140 countries. The survey reveals 10 areas for businesses to focus on to better organize, manage, develop, and align people at work. The report identified the following as new trends in careers and learning:

  • Employees decide what to learn based on their team’s needs and individual career goals

  • People learn all the time, in micro-learning, courses, classrooms, and groups

  • Learning technology creates an always-on, collaborative, curated learning experience

  • Learning content is provided by everyone in the organization, and curated by employees as well as HR

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