Group learning has long been recognized as an effective approach to learning and talent development. However, many organizations underestimate its true power in fostering relationships, collaboration, culture and inclusion in the workplace. Group learning can break down long-standing silos, drive culture change, build critical skills and leverage diverse perspectives in decision-making. By tapping into our inherent need for human connection and a sense of community at work, learning in a group environment can yield remarkable results.
Human beings are social creatures by nature. We thrive on connections and the feeling of belonging to a community. In the workplace, fostering an environment where employees feel connected and included is vital for productivity, innovation and overall job satisfaction. The shift to hybrid work has made it harder to bring employees together and create that sense of community, but group learning offers a powerful tool to tap into these innate needs. It serves as a platform where individuals can come together, and share their knowledge and experiences while developing a deeper understanding of themselves and greater trust with their colleagues.
Group learning offers a number of benefits. First, it can provide the catalyst for culture change. As a case in point, one of our clients wanted to transition from a top-down “command-and-control” culture to a collaborative, servant-based leadership approach. The organization used group coaching sessions to develop the new culture by helping leaders identify mindsets and behaviors to stop, start and continue. Group coaching built trust across functions and silos and led to a deeper commitment to the new culture as leaders supported one another in making the transition. The top five levels of leadership participated in monthly group coaching sessions, while individual coaching was provided to each leader to help with specific challenges and application. Culture change takes time, but group learning can accelerate the shift and improve the chances of success.
A second benefit of group learning is that it can help leaders develop critical skills to navigate the changing business environment. Another client, a national manufacturing company, used group learning to help leaders develop and refine their leadership skills in response to a changing workforce. They implemented a curriculum-based group coaching program, addressing various leadership gaps. Monthly group sessions, complemented by individual coaching, were conducted across functions and locations. Leaders discussed challenges they faced, shared best practices, and reflected on specific changes they needed to make to demonstrate new skills and behaviors. The pilot’s success prompted program expansion to multiple cohorts within the initial division and several hundred leaders in a second division. The program not only provided valuable learning opportunities, but also fostered relationships and networks that will continue to support these leaders long after program completion.
A third benefit of group learning is that it can create connection among employees in a hybrid work environment, leading to a more cohesive work culture. Organizations have embraced hybrid work because it can provide better work-life balance, reduce the risk of burnout and improve productivity. But there are tradeoffs. In many companies, hybrid and remote employees feel isolated and lack a sense of belonging to the organization. Hybrid work requires a new set of skills to communicate and collaborate effectively. At another client organization, group coaching served as a powerful tool that bridged geographical gaps, enhanced teamwork and fostered a sense of community among its completely remote workforce.
To maximize the effectiveness of group learning, organizations should consider a few key principles. First, senior leadership support is essential to ensuring participants fully engage in the program. In many cases, senior leadership participated as their own cohort so they could speak with authenticity about the power of group learning. Next, it is important to create a psychologically safe environment where participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment. Making a firm commitment to confidentiality within the group and utilizing a coach skilled in group dynamics can go a long way toward creating psychological safety. Finally, organizations should encourage ongoing learning and support mechanisms to sustain the benefits of group learning over time.
Group learning is a powerful tool for organizations seeking to build relationships, collaboration, culture and inclusion in the workplace. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that it is a cost-effective way to not only prompt change, but to also accelerate it. Bringing people together and creating shared experiences taps into our innate need for connection and brings about greater engagement, fulfillment and productivity at work.