Data from a 2008 Bersin & Associates study of more than 800 HR and learning professionals supports the need for informal learning strategies in today's challenging business climate. The study reports that 80 percent of all corporate learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts, and managers. But even more important are the expectations of Millennials (those employees younger than 25) in the workforce, nearly all of whom expect to find on-the-job learning portals, such as Facebook or YouTube, as part of their work environment.
According to Josh Bersin, CEO and president of Bersin & Associates, informal learning is not going to dominate every other type of learning delivery, but it does represent "a modernization of the learning function." This month's feature article on page 56 cites more than one study showing that knowledge is better shared and retained via peers and social networking platforms.
Jeanne Meister confirmed this phenomenon on her blog, citing a study from ReadWriteWeb that showed that students who are listening to lectures on podcasts have high retention rates. Meister also wrote recently that one university in Australia is now offering college credit to selected high school students who watch video footage of lectures on YouTube, and then turn in other work assignments to receive credit at no cost to them. Listening to the lectures once and then playing them back multiple times represents an important part of learning that is often overlooked, according to Meister.
Informal learning is also a cost-effective way to keep learning a vital part of the workplace, and in this economy, where efficiency is critical, an effective informal learning strategy should be a part of all learning plans.
Do your employees have the critical thinking and Web 2.0 skills to embrace the benefits of informal learning? Is your learning management system informal learning friendly? For every piece of formal learning, there should be informal learning opportunities, performance support tools, other content, and subject matter experts available to all participants. When employees have a question about a piece of software, a department within the company, or a product or service, is there a frequently asked questions document available as a reference tool?
If you haven't already, it's time to make collaboration easy and accessible in your organization. Never stop experimenting with new ways to deliver training.