Informal learning is impromptu. But that doesn’t mean you should exclude it from your structured corporate eLearning program. In fact, this unscheduled training approach may be just what your employees need to broaden their knowledge. In this article, we’ll share 7 tips to use informal learning into your training strategy.
How To Incorporate Informal Learning Into Your Corporate Training Strategy
Informal learning usually takes the form of causal knowledge-seeking and spontaneous problem-solving. Corporate learners look for online training resources that can help them achieve their goals, independently of scheduled training sessions.
However, it can also play a prominent role in your corporate eLearning program. Employees should have the opportunity to explore topics organically instead of just attending mandatory training. Here are 7 tips to help you incorporate informal learning into your corporate eLearning program.
1. Create A Goal-Centered Game Plan
Informal learning is usually initiated by the learner. For example, they run into a problem during their day-to-day activities. This prompts them to hop online and look up relevant videos, articles, and cheat sheets.
However, informal learning in a corporate environment must also support the learning objectives, such as bridging performance gaps or improving workplace efficiency. Therefore, you need to build your corporate eLearning strategy around targeted goals. Meet with your L&D team to identify your primary learning objectives and then develop informal learning activities that support them.
2. Offer A Microlearning Repository For “Moment Of Need” Support
Informal learning occurs when employees need to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. So, why not replicate this in your own corporate eLearning program? Provide employees with a “just-in-time” microlearning online repository that features interactive exercises, videos, and online product demos.
Make it mobile-friendly so that they can access it whenever the need arises. In addition, create a categorized central hub where they can find all of the online training materials. For example, a list that contains hyperlinks arranged by department, task, or skill set.
3. Get Managers Actively Involved
Managers work with your employees daily. As such, they are in a unique position to facilitate informal learning opportunities. For example, a supervisor notices that a member of their team is struggling to complete a task. They have the ability to point employees in the right direction by recommending online support resources or demonstrating the task.
Thus, the employee is able to improve their work practices and fix unfavorable behaviors almost immediately, instead of having to wait until the next scheduled online training course. However, you must provide managers with the support they need to facilitate informal learning.
Host regular meetings to keep everyone in the loop, and ensure that your leadership team has access to online training tutorials and materials. You might even consider a blog or online forum that is exclusively for managers, supervisors, and department heads.
4. Develop A Mentorship Online Training Program
One of your most valuable informal learning resources is your staff, especially those members who have been with the organization for years and have a wealth of experience. These employees are able to share their knowledge and expertise with their coworkers in an online mentorship program.
In turn, the mentees have the opportunity to share their own insights. For example, a seasoned sales employee has mastered negotiation skills. However, they may be able to learn a thing or two about technology and your POS software from a new hire.
Find a reliable video conferencing system and encourage employees to use a Project Management platform to streamline the process. You should also create a set of guidelines so that everyone knows their roles and expectations. For example, how often the mentor/mentee should communicate and how they will evaluate their progress.
5. Set Up Dedicated Social Media Groups
Social media groups give employees a more private forum to discuss important topics and ideas. This is particularly true for closed groups with limited membership. For example, only customer service employees can join the group, or those who are trying to upskill in order to climb the corporate ladder.
To get the ball rolling, you might consider setting up a starter group so that everyone has a chance to acclimate. This also allows you to test out different approaches. For instance, should you post a new prompt each week to encourage online discussions? Or are employees best left to their own devices?
6. Create A Corporate eLearning Blog
Online discussions and corporate eLearning blogs are ideal for knowledge sharing and feedback. In the case of blogs, you might consider a posting schedule that features a different question or prompt every week. For forums, it’s often wise to moderate the online discussion to ensure that it stays on-topic.
Whichever route you choose, every employee should feel welcomed. As such, you may want to create specific guidelines that stress the importance of mutual respect and open communication. There should also be a section devoted to conflict resolution and “off-limits” topics.
Lastly, use your corporate eLearning blog to update employees and provide them with current online training resources. For instance, post a link to the latest online tutorial that explores more efficient ways to accomplish a task.
7. Incorporate Real World Activities
Real activities foster self-guided exploration. For example, employees must interact with virtual characters and complete work-related tasks to progress through the simulation, or embark down different decision-making paths to make it through the branching scenario.
This gives them the real world experience they need to build their skills and expand their knowledge. More importantly, they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes so that they don’t repeat them on-the-job. For instance, an employee discovers that they’ve been performing a task incorrectly. As a result, they’re able to seek out additional online training resources to improve their performance and fill in the gaps.
Informal learning and structured corporate eLearning can work together harmoniously, especially if you use these 7 tips to provide your employees with spontaneous learning opportunities. The key is pointing them in the right direction, setting some ground rules, and then letting them explore the subject matter at their own pace.
Will your employees get more excited with social learning instead of informal? Do you really know the difference between the two? Here are the 10 social learning strategies you should consider incorporating into your training for engaging and efficient eLearning!
by Nikos Andriotis