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Bringing learning into a collaborative environment makes the experience more productive and effective, with benefits that include: better problem solving, breaking down inner-office barriers, and knowledge sharing.

Formalized learning can often feel very individual, whether employees are listening to someone talk or working through an online course. Bring your employees together for collaborative learning that’s more effective and productive. Here are five ways to do that.

Set Team Learning Goals

You work together as a team to achieve the goals of your department, whether you’re in sales, marketing or development. Why would it be any different for learning? A simple way to make learning more collaborative is to set team goals, even if the work is done online.

These goals, as with any business goal, should start with high-level organizational objectives. What is the company focused on right now, and where does your team fit within that? To make it even easier, consider how current team goals can be translated into group learning goals. For example:

  • Team business goal: Make 50 sales this quarter
  • Team learning goal: Master 3 new ways to nurture/convert leads; you’ve mastered those techniques when the team has converted at least 3 leads into a customer for each tactic (so 9 leads needed total).

This makes learning more collaborative while ensuring the team is still working toward overall company goals. This will encourage sharing of ideas, tips and tricks as new techniques are learned and tested. When employees work together, innovative ideas come to life, making this a valuable tool.

Offer Blended Learning Experiences

For some companies, online learning is the most convenient option for reaching the entire company, or team, without hiring a teacher to spend the day training. However, when you take learning online, you lose the collaboration aspect. Judy Whitcomb, senior vice president for HR and learning at Vi, tells Develop Intelligence:

“Online is a really good learning tool, but you can miss the learning that you might get from your colleagues and discussions, being able to provide context and put what you’re learning into a larger picture. So much learning happens between people when they get together. Some of that can be done through virtual classrooms and virtual learning, but there is still a tremendous amount of value in classroom learning.”

That’s why Whitcomb suggests using a mix of the two, “I prefer blended approaches where you have classroom training, and you can leverage technology and use it to reinforce training.”

When blending these teaching styles, remember that classroom training doesn’t require a teacher from outside the organization. Managers and high-level leaders can likely teach advanced skills to their employees. Paired with an online learning program, you may find your employees are more engaged and successful.

Screen Share for Remote Learning

Remote employees shouldn’t miss out on a collaborative learning experience just because they’re far away. Instead, use one simple tool to bring everyone in: screen sharing. This is especially helpful when teaching technical skills or onboarding a new product.

The teacher, consultant or manager can project their screen in the conference room while simultaneously screen sharing with remote employees. Get everyone on a conference call and they’ll be learning collaboratively.

This learning format brings remote employees into the experience and keeps them involved in the conversation. This is something they often miss out on, according to Zendesk’s recent poll of their own remote employees. They explain:

“Oftentimes, the only interaction remote workers may get with people from headquarters are meetings with tight agendas, leaving no room for genuine conversation and collaboration (and, as we all know, meetings can often get cancelled at the last minute).”

Start a Mentor Program

Mentoring is a great way to keep employees learning, well after the official training has ended. It can also be used in place of formalized training program as a way to encourage collaboration and allow employees to upskill on the job.

Not all mentorship programs are created equal, however, so to make it effective, you need to have a few key elements in place. Experts at JustWorks suggest following these steps:

  • Set objectives: What is your goal for this mentoring program? Get more specific than learning. Encourage upskilling in a certain department? Look for new potential company leaders?
  • Pick the format: Group mentoring (one mentor, multiple mentees), peer mentoring 1-on-1, team mentoring (multiple mentors, single mentee), etc. Which is best for your needs?
  • Promote the benefits: To encourage active participation, remind employees of the value they’re getting. You want them to be engaged and excited.
  • Pair groups or people: The pairing strategy you use will depend upon what your goals are and what format you’re using.
  • Facilitate feedback and evaluate: Do employees like the program? Are they learning? How could it be better?

Build Learning Around Product Launches

Use learning when the company is already coming together as a team: for a product (or service) launch. This process inherently requires learning from every team. For example:

  • Sales needs to learn the new features and how to sell them.
  • Marketing team members need to learn the features and how to market them.
  • Developers need to learn how to create the new product or prep the website for it, including building out all pages and backend updates.

Use this as a time for group learning. Rather than leaving individual team leaders to share this information with their employees, bring everyone together. While sales and marketing may not need the technical details, having them learn the high-level, must-know information from their peers on the development team makes it more collaborative. This simple team learning opportunity also connects teams that don’t often work together, encouraging everyone to collaborate more in the future as well.

Make Learning More Collaborative

Bring your employees together to make learning more collaborative, which in turn allows everyone to be more productive. Consider which earning option is best for your needs before choosing one or the other. For example, if you have a lot of junior employees, perhaps a group mentoring program would work well; if you have a lot of remote employees, finding ways to bring them into the learning would be key. Don’t forget to evaluate along the way so the learning is engaging and effective for every employee.

About the author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and business owner. She’s worked from home for more than 4 years and has hired and managed a number of remote contractors in that time. Her work has been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and she’s written for Glassdoor, Salesforce and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect LinkedIn.

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