3 Digital Approaches to Facilitate Informal Learning

Informal learning arguably makes up a large majority of all workplace learning. According to the 70:20:10 theory, informal learning accounts for up to 90% of all learning. Yet, the corporates often focus and drill down on the 10% – formal learning. As informal makes up such a large part of the learning mix, it’s important that we try to facilitate it in our organisations. It starts by doing more ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’ and creating channels for open communication, collaboration and internal influencing. Here are three easily implemented digital approaches to support informal learning in your organisation.

1. Creating communities for Social Learning Experiences

As with so many other things, communication is always the key. For informal learning to happen, you need to establish peer-to-peer communication channels within your company. These can be totally unstructured, like employees using their own social media tools to exchange information. However, it is generally advisable to adopt a semi-structured approach, whereas the company provides the platform for social collaboration and knowledge transfer. As such, the company also controls the knowledge being exchanged, and is able to intervene in problematic situations. With proper learning data tracking, you’ll also be able to pinpoint who are the internal influences and key opinion leaders within your own organisation.

In these communities, whether online or offline, employees can collaborate, exchange ideas and provide peer support. The approach is supported by the social learning theory, according to which students learn by mimicking and following others.

2. Curating accessible ‘Pull’ learning resources for on-demand needs

While corporates have generally adopted a ‘push’ model of learning, whereas content is authored by the company for to fulfil certain learning objectives, a ‘pull’ approach might is required as well. Instead of engaging in time consuming instructional design processes, companies should make the best use of free resources. The internet is full of free videos, documents and knowledge bites to use. Instead of designing content from scratch, corporate L&D professionals should focus some of their time on curating these types of content. A ‘course’ is less and less frequently the best solution to individuals’ learning needs.

Resources in various bite-sized formats, on the other hand, provide informal support at the time of need. Providing a library of curated supporting resources based on observed business needs provides a good basis for informal learning. Learners don’t have to waste time on searching the open internet for alternatives, as you’ve already curated the best resources for them. Furthermore, it’s much more easier and agile to produce curated resources than author formal courses! Hence the L&D team can save a lot of time as well.

3. Enable learning ownership and user-generated content

With a ‘pull’ approach to learning, you’re enabling individuals to take ownership of their own development. To take it further, you could also encourage them to take ownership of the organisation’s informal learning by allowing user-generated content. This type of sharing of best practices, tacit knowledge and tips and tricks is nothing new. Yet, in the age of social media, you can reap the benefits of it by providing a collaborative social learning platform. Therein, the employees can create their own content (e.g. videos) or share external resources (lectures, blogs, etc.). Even simple discussions and comment chains can provide valuable knowledge nuggets to others in the organisation.

Realistically speaking, the L&D team no longer has the best knowledge or the time to develop formal courses. Due to the speed of the economy, they might not even have time to curate all the necessary resources. By enabling users to be a part of the learning content development process, you’re able to scale up much faster. Meanwhile, you’re encouraging a more collaborative culture and letting employees to take ownership of the learning process, which should increase engagement by quite a bit. That’s the power of informal learning.

Do you need help facilitating the informal learning needs within your organisation? We’ll be happy to share you more in-depth insights, best practices and tools. Just contact us

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