The power of informal learning

Last month I mentioned the need to recognise our investment in the development of our current and future generations, so when you consider the percentages of the 3E Model—education (10%), experience (70%) and exposure (20%)—organisations should be viewing informal learning as important.

Sometimes I feel we have lost our ability to communicate with our colleagues. We seem too quick to send an email to our colleague who is sitting over the partition from us, rather than standing up and talking to them directly. Learning occurs in every interaction, we just don’t think about it.

So what does that mean for your organisation? Bersin & Associates offers some potential answers in their research paper High-Impact Learning Practices: “Corporate learning is entering a new era—one of social, collaborative and talent-driven learning.”

In essence, formal learning still has a role to play, but informal learning defines your organisational ‘learning environment’, that is, where information can be found, the ability to collaborate with colleagues, and generally ‘how we do things around here’.

I believe encouraging an informal learning culture will support the creation of a performance-driven organisation, as employees feel more engaged, motivated and empowered to make a difference. The flow-on is naturally increased job satisfaction and reduction in turnover.

Jay Cross and many other published authors believe that informal learning maybe the conceptual glue that holds a high-performing enterprise together.

Always remember developing training is one thing, but absorption and application is another, it is all about making better use of technologies for information sharing, and better connection of content and context on the job. This why social networking tools, such as blogs and podcasts, offer organisations a learning stickiness to help stimulate learning and make it more contextual and relevant to remember and apply.

Forward-thinking organisations are becoming attuned to the need for their learning agenda to a central part of strategic business alignment, thus enabling employees to be better informed, better skilled, better supported to create a competitive advantage.

Here is a great quote from Jay Cross: “Workers don’t have time for the inefficiencies of old-style training…[they] need to be co-participants in learning, not simply receivers.”

Employees want to learn and grow, therefore we need to consider ways to offer informal learning for skill and personal growth to all of your employees. The business world needs to get in step with the reality that the old approach to training just is not going to work with the marketplace of tomorrow.

So what is your organisation going to do differently so you can compete in tomorrow’s marketplace?

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