In today’s workforce, a high proportion of workplace learning occurs through informal learning.
In the past, many organizations carried out the majority of learning and development through formal learning channels such as training courses, workshops and seminars. These days, however, knowledge sharing is occurring more organically and through less traditional methods, as employees absorb and share information through social media and online learning communities.
With this shift in learning, employers and managers need to take note of the importance of informal learning, embracing it as an effective tool that can be used alongside their regular formal channels.
Read on to find out more about how informal learning works and what benefits it can bring to your organization.
Learning in general is an ongoing process, with the world around us providing an endless source of inspiration, knowledge and experience.
In this way, the type of learning that we refer to as ‘informal’ is very natural – it’s not something that’s planned, or scheduled. It’s something that occurs spontaneously, as you’re casually scrolling through Facebook, reading an article online, or chatting to a colleague over IM.
In these cases, you didn’t plan to become more educated on a certain subject, or sit down to explore a specific topic. Informal learning just happens as a part of everyday life.
Informal learning allows knowledge to be shared through an organization much faster than formal learning channels, which is advantageous for both employers and employees.
With social media delivering information both constantly and instantly, employees don’t need to wait for a set training day or team meeting to be aware of company updates or organizational news. From a business perspective, these channels mean knowledge can be disseminated to all staff in an instant, making communication more effective.
As an employer, informal learning can also be a very economical option for your staff’s learning and development. While most companies spend a huge part of their L&D budget on formal learning methods, such as training courses and workshops, informal learning will cost your organization far less as it uses channels that most employees will already be using – such as social media.
Social media channels, namely Facebook and Twitter, are where most workers are turning to informally seek knowledge. In this way, social media platforms can be very effectively harnessed for informal learning.
They deliver instant, relevant and mobile-friendly information to users, making them perfect for informal learning. With social media easily available on the go, individuals can choose to digest information in a way that suits them, absorbing knowledge organically at a suitable time and in a suitable format.
Organizations can use Facebook groups to engage employees in discussions and knowledge sharing, which can be very useful for dispersed teams with remote workers. With Twitter’s instant updates and ongoing commentary, businesses can also provide fast and easy education on new services, products or company information. LinkedIn can also be used for informal learning, allowing users to connect with other professionals for knowledge sharing, relevant updates and industry news.
Blogs are a popular way for many organizations to provide employees with information, instead of the traditional training room or workshop learning environment. With the ability to enable comments on articles, blogs also encourage discussion, feedback and informal learning amongst readers.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are another online solution that can be used very effectively for informal learning.
A recent article about the use of LMS for informal learning encouraged employers to look for “Learning Management Systems that support social collaboration tools, such as web conferencing software and Project Management online platforms. These features allow corporate learners to work remotely with their peers and share feedback. They can also send instant messages, upload documents, and address common concerns to form a supportive online learning community. Better still, all of these interactions are facilitated and track[ed] through the LMS platform.”
Investing in a good Learning Management System is a great way to promote online collaboration between your employees, improving levels of engagement and team work. In doing this, you’ll be facilitating informal learning for your staff, leading to increased knowledge sharing and education across your organization.
For a Learning Management System that offers flexible features to suit the needs and preferences of your learners, consider Go1 – an online staff training system where employees can complete courses anywhere, anytime.