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Osmosis Learning

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Working from home has many perks, but learning from those around you isn't necessarily one of them. As Anna Jones covers in the BBC article "The Problem With Losing ‘Osmosis Learning,'" remote employees have far fewer opportunities to absorb work-related knowledge that occurs just by working in the physical space as colleagues. Many term passive cognitive exchanges learning by osmosis. That doesn't easily happen for hybrid and remote workers, and that can stunt remote workers' professional development and growth.

While some experts contend that only one-fifth of learning at a job happens by observation, Jones explains that there's reason to believe that figure is grossly underestimated. She cites the social learning theory attributed to Albert Bandura, a psychologist who in the 1960s advanced the idea that the lion's share of human behavior is learned exclusively by observation.


Does that mean remote work is detrimental? Not necessarily. However, people leaders should intentionally generate osmotic learning opportunities in hybrid and other remote work environments. Solutions include redesigning the workspace and strategic scheduling to ensure employees' in-office days overlap on a regular basis so that critical tacit knowledge transfer can occur.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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