The pace of doing business continues to accelerate while employees are constantly challenged to do more with less. Companies continue to look for ways to cut costs and at the same time, increase revenues. Companies must also conduct business faster by processing larger amounts of increasingly complex information. Globalization and decentralization have been the answer for many looking to gain that edge. Distributed sales teams, working different hours, in non-traditional office environments have become the norm. Consequently, this structure has its disadvantages.

The rate of change and the disconnected nature of our work are having a negative impact on the modern selling environment. Sellers struggle with efficient communication and are learning through more informal channels. Sellers also struggle with time limitations, information overload, and are realizing newer skill gaps. The reality is, we will all have skill gaps, all the time and there will never be enough time to learn everything we need to learn.

The consistent and rapid evolution of the skills and knowledge required to succeed has caused a shift in effective learning delivery. Learning is no longer being provided as a calculated set of costly, formal classroom events where sellers are graded solely on their participation. Instead, companies are shifting their emphasis from bringing the worker to the learning to bringing the learning to the work.

For many companies on the cutting edge, social and informal learning have helped bridge that gap. Quite simply put, social and informal learning is learning through conversation and interactions about content.And social and informal learning is not so much about what is learned, but instead, how its learned.The modern work environment has forced us to learn how to learn faster!

The benefits of social and informal learning are real. Content is more accurate, more relevant and widely accessiblewhenmaintenance and creation are distributed. It helps sellers grow skills more rapidly, creates a more nimble sales force at a lower cost, and increases engagement. All together, this helps to increase margins and increase revenue.

So how has technology influenced the current methods of learning? By using some basic design concepts, social software and simple, cost effective technologies weve improved the way sellers and employees learn. Team challenges bring sellers together and social software allows sellers to connect to share files, bookmarks, content and tasks. Social software also allows sellers the ability to contribute to program design and quickly identify experts. Content can even be filtered, rated and improved through dialogue and conversation.

Overall, companies that are harnessing the power of social and informal learning are realizing true returns on their learning investment. Sellers are attaining quota faster, more consistently, at a lower cost and are contributing to the expertise of the overall sales force. After all, most of what we learn is outside of the classroom!

Jason Ackerson leads a global technology team responsible for designing, developing, deploying and supporting technology solutions for new and experienced sales professionals within IBM. His focus for the last 7+ years has been on delivering technology solutions that have an impact on how IBM employees learn and more importantly, the bottom line.

To hear more from Jason, dont forget to register for the ASTD Sales Training Virtual Conference with the live kickoff keynote address on December 5th, 2011 at 12 PM EST.