Virtual Mentoring and Coaching Programs
I think most people can agree that organizational social learning is a process where people learn from other people in a corporate context.
Seems simple enough. We are all on the same page then, right? Yes, until you get to application. Then you have about as many options and opinions as to how to accomplish the process we all call “social learning” as there are types of ice cream in your local grocer’s freezer.
To illustrate my point, do a Google search on: How can I use social learning at my organization?. What you will find are varying results and suggestions that seem to have nothing in common with one another, and you will be reminded that social learning as a corporate practice is still relatively emerging. In fact, the application of social learning has yet to be fully defined. At this point, there are simply many different thoughts on how to achieve and enable learning from others in today’s organizations.
Some say social learning is synonymous with social media sharing or social networking. According to this school of thought, the process can be accomplished by providing media sharing tools to employees (e.g., wikis, blogs, and communities supported by internal Twitter and Facebook clones). And to be frank, I don’t think that they are wrong: any time you learn from someone else you are technically participating in social learning. As a result, there are lots of great providers in the market—from standalone products to those wrapped up in learning suites—that offer this social media-based flavor of social learning.
While learning through these means is fine, the most beneficial social learning experiences to my life and career have always been more centered on building developmental relationships. I’ve always derived the most value from crafting what I call a “Dynamic Learning Network,” which is comprised of both people from whom I am actively learning and people who I am advising (and thus, also learning from through teaching).
Think about your own life. When it comes to your own development and your own career, what types of relationships have been most beneficial? I’d be willing to bet that while you learn from your extended network all the time, it was the people that you’d define more as a mentor, coach (expert or peer), or advisor of some type that you learned the most from. Or maybe you play the role of mentor, coach or advisor to another or to a group of individuals. Perhaps like me, the relationships where you are helping to guide the development of others and thus cementing your own insights and understandings represent the most beneficial type of social learning to your career.
These types of relationships led me to create the first e-mentoring system at the turn of the 21st century and to pioneer the practice of virtual mentoring. Today, my notion of what relationship-based learning can look like and the power it can have on employee development have evolved even further. To help people learn through exposure to others, I’ve created River, software that supports my approach to social learning and that aims to bring the right people together to engage in modern mentoring, coaching and peer learning To me, it’s within these types of developmental relationships that deep, personal and transformational learning occurs.
My favorite flavor of social learning is the kind that you credit with helping to shape your career, the kind that helps you grow as a professional and as a person. This is the flavor of social learning that River serves up for your employees to enjoy. And I hope you’ll agree: It’s a rich, wonderful flavor.
If you are interested in our flavor of social learning and are looking for ways to help intelligently connect your employees to one another for supported modern mentoring, coaching and peer learning, I hope you will contact us to learn more.