According to research, around 67 percent of employees use social media for work-related tasks such as brainstorming with their peers, obtaining first-hand customer feedback, and reading relevant articles published on various blogs and websites.
It is transforming the way knowledge is acquired, particularly in the workplace.
According to the advocates of informal learning, over 70 percent of the knowledge we receive in life and in the workplace is acquired informally. One powerful example in this regard is of language.
An individual learns a language for the first time in the informal environment of his house and not in a school.
Similarly, the majority of us develop social skills not through etiquette lessons but by means of life experiences.
In addition, some of the utmost imperative abilities that guarantee office productivity, such as communication, cooperation, coordination and even practical skills, are often refined via instrumental and continuing informal corporate learning tools that include counseling, coaching, feedback and scrutiny.
Benefits of Informal Learning in the Workplace
Here are 5 ways of incorporating informal learning tools` in the workplace can improve corporate success and productivity:
1) Make Learning a Fun Process
Many prosperous businesses in the world today make considerable investments in office-based training initiatives.
Companies that acknowledge up-to-date methodologies in implementing office-based learning activities also experience a considerable improvement in efficiency, improved workforce retention, and enhanced product quality.
However, it is important to make the learning process stimulating for workers to inspire them to develop their expertise. Old-fashioned methods of corporate learning can come across as rigid and mind-numbing to many workers.
One effective method of making the learning process exciting is to focus on project-based learning. As a manager, set specific milestones in a project that encourage employees to acquire new skills.
The outcomes of the venture may not directly advantage the company, however, the capabilities that workers acquire should be pertinent.
2) Trigger Quick Learning
It is observed that employees recognize the need for acquiring additional knowledge when they diagnose a problem in the workplace. They try to come up with substitute approaches for tackling the problem and recognize the necessity to learn further before they can effectively handle the issue.
Employees find it more appealing to learn informally since, unlike formal training, the informal learning process is free from the stress of clearing an exam, getting a decent grade, and performing well to mention something worthwhile on their CV.
Hence, they find it more convenient to indulge in and endure the impetus of informal education.
3) Offer Flexibility
As adults, we all enjoy autonomy and control. In the workplace, the majority of the employees consider formal training as a bitter capsule, whereas, informal learning is contemplated as more fulfilling as it occurs at their own pace, and according to their own interest.
The easy availability of informal learning tools has simplified the way learning occurs in the workplace. Now, there is no need for any substantial learning strategy. Due to the internet, employees have access to the extensive knowledge that can be used to incessantly obtain new knowledge.
Managers also find it more stress-free to partake in a spontaneous discussion that involves sharing valuable knowledge informally rather than formal training. In case of a formal setting, they would need to prep up in advance, plan the meeting, and make other necessary arrangements.
4) Satisfy Employees’ Inquisitiveness
Unlike formal training, informal learning doesn’t have any fixed approach. In the workplace, it allows employees to gratify their inquisitiveness along with helping them in expanding their knowledge base, learning a new skill, or refining an existing talent.
Informal learning is extemporaneous and can occur at any instant the employee observes anything that piques his inquisitiveness or will help improve his work quality. Providing ample opportunities to learn on the job helps to keep employees satiated, productive and engaged.
5) Promote Employee Collaboration
From a company’s perspective, informal learning tools help in forming the foundation for a “learning business”. They provide opportunities for cooperation between workers and promote teamwork.
This collaboration among employees facilitates the company in the long run by streamlining the work process and simplifying tasks for everyone.
In an informal setup, employees can share their experiences, successes, and failures in a much effective way which will eventually help others in not committing the same mistakes.
Promoting Informal Learning in the Workplace According to Andrea D. Ellinger, employees often do not indulge in informal learning because they think they do not have the approval to learn during office hours.
Therefore, managers can promote informal learning among their employees by providing official consent to acquiring on-the-job training, particularly when there is no other way of solving a problem.
Similarly, managers should also encourage informal training by demonstrating the conduct and openly communicating their appreciation for doing so.
Companies can foster an informal learning environment through various approaches.
Some of them include:
● Providing semi-structured environments for information sharing.
● Integrating informal learning with formal training plans. For example, by arranging pre/post discussions that offer informal ways for workers to exchange thoughts, opinions, and advice.
● Curating knowledge by identifying, filtering, organizing and sharing the most pertinent information on particular subjects and offering it to all employees online or by means of a dedicated software or platform.
While the responsibility of providing adequate informal learning opportunities in the workplace lies with the company, it is important to note that effective utilization of informal learning tools depends on the employees.
The employee who spends his time in acquiring informal knowledge is normally viewed as a person who is objective-oriented and is always in search of prospects to discover, experiment, and absorb new information.Such an employee gradually becomes a valuable asset to the company.