The fact that learning happens through multiple channels (and not just formal training) is an established one. However, it is only in recent times that we see a focused effort by organizations to promote and encourage informal learning in the workplace. In this article, I will highlight 6 possible ways it can be used. Let me begin with a few basic definitions:
Delivered and deployed by L&D teams, formal learning is structured training and is typically delivered in the following formats:
Given the fact that formal learning is owned by L&D teams, its design, roll-out, the time period for its completion, and the tracking of learner performance is handled by them. In a sense, this model works on ‘pushing’ learning material to the learners in a structured and well-defined manner.
In contrast, informal learning is driven by learners and fueled by their interest, motivation, and passion to gain knowledge and excel. This is spontaneous and can be triggered whenever the learner sees a point of interest (an asset, a conversation, a peer/coach support that can help them perform better or address a challenge they face). Learners of this profile truly learn on-the-go, and learning is not limited to interactions at work alone.
Unlike formal learning, this is a ‘pull’-based approach where learners can pick learning content and consume these at their own pace.
The success of informal learning rests with learners, as they have the control on what they want to process when they want to process it, and how they want to apply it. As an extension, it works for learners who are driven, goal-oriented, and are eager to explore different ways to learn. They do not depend on a formal session to learn. These learners are on the look-out for learning support at various junctures, from various people they interact with and are open to any format that can help them meet their learning need.
Informal learning provides a rich and rewarding experience enabling learners to accomplish may goals like:
Given the nature of informal learning (not structured but impromptu) and the way it happens (at work or outside), does it fit any model for Learning and Development?
Informal learning is the most significant way we learn as children, and this continues through our formative years. Even at work, we learn through observation, asking, seeking assistance, or providing support.
You can identify with some of the following situations:
The value of informal learning is also affirmed by the 70-20-10 model for Learning and Development that is used extensively to devise training delivery.
Very clearly, it shows the need for organizations to create a support system and the opportunities to promote informal learning in their workplace.
By definition, the success of informal learning depends on learners’ motivation and their intrinsic passion for learning.
However, organizations can promote this approach by providing support systems like:
All these measures will go a long way in creating a better learning culture and facilitate “learning as a continuum”. Not only can you use them to foster and promote informal learning, but you can also use them to enhance the impact of your online training or ILT sessions as well.
I hope this article provides some food for thought on how you can use these informal learning examples, as well as the concept of informal learning itself, in the workplace. If you have any queries, do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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