Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Building Informal Learning Habits

 -  2/19/13

Short but disciplined upfront planning can help employees identify opportunities for informal skill development throughout their normal work day.

Learning to Pull Information

Advocates of social networking in business often talk about the cultural change required to make the most of social business programs.

“There’s no substitute for experience” is a common adage for those who have learned by doing during a long career. Well-designed learning can help close an experience gap, but the expression still holds truth.

There is a practical limit to a reliance on structured training. Technology and the business environment are changing so quickly, structured training has by necessity taken a back seat to informal learning as the dominant approach to workplace development.

Self-Directed Informal Learning
Experience alone can be an inefficient instructor. Value comes from the relevant and practical takeaways in an experience. High-potential employees are especially effective at generating these takeaways. In his 2011 “Everyday Experience Is Not Enough” blog post, Tom Gram of Performance X Design said, “Experts continually challenge their current performance and seek feedback from their environment to stay in a more or less permanent learning state, mastering everyday skills but continuously raising their personal bar. This deliberate approach to learning from experience is what separates top performers from the norm.”

Whether learning formally or informally, employees at all levels need to take ownership for their development. This goes beyond annual development plans that specify special work tasks and conference attendance. Informal learning shouldn’t be left to chance or reserved for those skilled in making the most of their employment experience.

For Mike Sullivan, chief people officer at breakfast cereal producer MOM Brands, effective informal learning is expected. “Our company is ambitious. For us to win, we need to juggle being a low-cost producer, a growth company and a great place to do great work. The low-cost producer aspect can often be the most challenging.

“For certain investments, we sometimes have an affordability challenge. While we clearly can’t afford poor performers, we also can’t afford a heavy investment in formal training,” he said. “As a result, we expect employees to be accountable for their own development and then provide customized support to make that happen.”

Article Keywords:   informal learning  


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