The problem of the loss of “osmosis learning”


Elliott and Gratton agree that recent technological developments have revolutionized the way we can work and also socialize with our colleagues. Gratton, for example, wrote about how PwC set up “virtual worlds” for the remote onboarding of its new hires, so that people “always have the opportunity to meet” and form bonds. important. Innovations like this could “completely change the way we think about work,” she says.

But she also believes that organizations moving to new working models will need to learn how to make the most of periodic face-to-face meetings and “really make the office a place of cooperation.” For example, one of the concerns with the hybrid is that senior executives with good home work environments might choose them over their office. Gratton says employers are starting to address this potential problem by ensuring that workers’ working days overlap. “People are now saying, ‘OK Wednesday, that will be a day when we learn osmosis.’ They are more intentional about it.

Victoria Usher, CEO and founder of public relations firm Ginger May, also found a way to help new hires find their feet by assigning each a slightly more experienced “buddy”. Employees are encouraged to be fully involved in this relationship, so that junior partners “who don’t know what they don’t know” can feel free to ask basic questions without fear of sounding stupid. Usher says it’s also helped everyone that the company has “more systems than ever before.” Writing things down that were previously passed on by word of mouth or observation leaves less room for uncertainty, she notes.

Gratton strongly agrees that “making tacit knowledge explicit through textbooks and checklists” is more effective than relying on learning by osmosis, and says that many companies that have adopted remote work takes this approach. “What do young people learn by osmosis? One is that they learn to dress, ”she says. “Well, you can write it in a textbook. Or they learn to address a customer – you can write it down.

Elliott says Slack has introduced written team-level agreements that define expected behaviors, as a group and with each other. This is all part of being “much more transparent in the sharing of information and knowledge”, rather than waiting for everyone to collect information as they go. If there are clear processes for sharing information, everyone has the opportunity to read this information and learn from it at their own pace.

All of this means putting an end to what Elliott calls the ‘happiness’ of workplace learning and instead creating a system that truly reflects on the knowledge every worker needs for the job they do, who he needs to spend time with to acquire it and how this knowledge can be shared even more widely, so that everyone benefits, wherever they work. Ultimately, Gratton says, an office “isn’t really a physical location, it’s a place of connectivity.” So the key to learning, whether in person or from a distance, is to make the most of those connections.

Bandura argued that without the ability to observe others, learning is an “extremely laborious, not to say dangerous” process. The pandemic has certainly made this clear to many of us. But the hybrid era has also offered organizations the opportunity to rethink the way informal social learning takes place among their employees. It might take a bit more investment from managers up front, Elliott says, but “honestly, that kind of investment should happen whether the team is put together or distributed in the first place.”

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