Why team learning can smoothen the learning curve

By tapping into the power of team learning and collective experiences, organisations can speed up the learning process and make it more inclusive.
By: | January 29, 2024

One of the key HR trends today, as mentioned in a recent Forbes article by Bernard Marr, is upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Due to the speed of digitalisation and the accelerated adoption of Generative AI, acquiring digital skills has become one of the top training needs in most organisations.

However, upskilling and reskilling may be challenging if our team members are learning alone. They may encounter learning anxiety, such as having to figure out how to acquire the knowledge and skills through trial and error. They could make repeated mistakes as they may not know how to learn from these mistakes or are afraid to ask for help from team members. They may feel that they are incompetent and start to experience learned helplessness, which are barriers to acquiring digital skills.

Based on the 70:20:10 model for learning and development, where people can effectively learn in the workforce, 10% of learning come from coursework and training, 20% from developmental relationships, and 70% from learning through challenging experiences and assignments.

HR leaders can go beyond the 10% of learning where a team member undergoes self-learning by attending a course. A team is a learning unit in the organisation. Therefore, 20% of team learning can involve learning with others and learning from others in the team. By tapping into the power of team learning and collective experiences, this can speed up the learning process and smoothen the learning curve, especially for team members who are less digitally savvy.

Under the 70% of learning on-the-job, team members can apply digital skills to solve work issues and improve the current situation through digitisation and automation. Team members can also discuss and learn from the challenging situations and experiences that arise from planning stage to implementation of the digital work process.

To achieve the 20% and 70% of learning, the antecedent to team learning starts with a team climate that fosters psychological safety for learning and improvement. According to Prof. Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is a team climate where team members feel safe to undertake interpersonal risk-taking without the fear of being reprimanded, humiliated, or punished for asking questions, sharing concerns, and asking for help.

When a team leader fosters a learning environment that has high psychological safety, team members feel safe to ask questions, seek clarity and answers. They can feel safe to share their mistakes and problems when mastering digital skills so that the rest of the team members can learn, prevent these mistakes, and improve their skills and processes.

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“When a team leader fosters a learning environment that has high psychological safety, team members feel safe to ask questions, seek clarity and answers.”  – Jasmine Liew, Fearless Organisation Psychological Safety Practitioner

Through a climate of psychological safety, the team encourages the sharing of best practices and failures that arise from unintentional and experimental mistakes during the process of upskilling and reskilling. Team members can feel safe to ask for help from their team members who are competent in digital skills, as they would not be judged or humiliated for requiring more support and time as they learn.

A high level of psychological safety serves as a safety net for team learning and teamwork as the team learns together and leaves no one behind. Since psychological safety facilitates team learning, it can increase the self-efficacy of the individual team member’s belief and confidence to learn digital skills and apply them at work. Psychological safety can also lead to team efficiency as the team identifies the common learning goals and is able to learn from other competent team members. Despite the difficulties, challenges, and mistakes in the process of learning, having a psychological safety in the team enables the team to have the persistence to succeed by learning together, learning fast and learning confidently.

About the author: Jasmine Liew is the first Fearless Organisation Psychological Safety Practitioner in Singapore at Breakthrough Catalyst. As a Doctor of Business Administration Candidate at The University of Canberra, her research interests are the role of psychological safety in upskilling the workforce and leading organisation change effectively.