Implementing informal learning
As you can see formal training takes a concrete path for employee learning. It is structured, timed, and has clear objectives. Informal training is quite the opposite. Here is the process for using informal training:
1. Define what it is in your organization
Although informal learning doesn’t follow a concrete plan, it doesn’t mean you can incorporate it into employee training. The first step is to figure out how your employees learn when not taking an assigned training course. For example, do they follow certain blogs? Do they watch webinars online? Or is it as simple as having lunch with a coworker to learn first-hand skills? An easy way to gather this information is to survey your employees about when and where they learn outside of structured training.
2. Store the information
Whether you have a corporate intranet or a more robust option like a learning management system, add in this informal learning. It could be as simple as a list of outside learning resources. Gather your employees’ favorite blogs, webinars, video, books and websites for learning and share these for everyone to utilize. Also, make sure you either add an admin tool function where employees can directly add new ideas or have a simple support email where employees can email suggestions to be added. That way, this becomes a collaborative company wide effort.
3. Refine the resources
Once you have a fairly robust list, further categorize the resources. For example, someone that is a content writer most likely won’t care about a new programming language. On the flipside, an article about corporate communication is great for the entire company to read. So create categories around key topics or job functions. That way, it’s easy for employees to click on the links that pertain most to their jobs.
4. Tie it into your formal learning
Employees want to be empowered both on the job and in their training. A great way to get reluctant learners on board is by linking your learning management system or training portal to your informal learning page. For example, maybe an employee adds a great blog article about call center tips to help fellow customer service team members. Well chances are you have a few upcoming training modules related to customer service training. Simply add a line below that blog article link that says something like, “for more great call center tips, look forward to these upcoming training modules” and link directly to where those training sessions can be located.
5. Learn from your employees
After you have a fairly healthy list of resources, take a look at what has been added and in what categories. For example, are there several legal links with your lawyers on staff accessing these often? Or are there quite a few YouTube videos posted onboarding exercises? Look for patterns of what may be lacking in your formal training. You may need to create additional training modules based on the informal learning feedback you are receiving.
Informal learning can be a great win for an organization. Not only do you empower your employees to take training into their own hands, but you can learn where you can add more training value within your formal training program. Plus, employees will be more invested in the training you are presenting since you are now offering exactly what they are searching for on their own.
Tools to use in formal learning
Now that you know the process of formal versus informal employee learning, let’s talk about tools you can use for both. For formal training, there are quite a few ways you can make your training more robust and also most interesting for your employees.
Include classroom instruction
While many companies have a robust elearning training component, there is still a need for classroom instruction within formal learning. For one, everyone is present so you know everyone is taking the course that has been assigned. Plus, it allows employees to interact with one another so it builds soft skills like communication and team comradery.` And when an employee doesn’t understand a concept, he or she can easily ask questions in real-time. Finally, employees can use other senses and emotions to better understand concepts.
Another effective formal learning tool is gamification. If you are unfamiliar, gamification applies game designs and elements to entertain and keep the interest of the learner. As a result, even routine training modules can be brought to life. For example, top scorers earn badges or awards. This builds some healthy competition among co-workers and keeps training top of mind. Plus, it’s a chance to give out certificates or call attention to top performing employees. And recognition is a great employee motivator.
Update with video elements
When you have a training session with heavy text, the learner often zones out. So you want to break up training with interactive elements. Just like employees turn to YouTube to learn new personal skills, use short video clips for on-the-job training. It’s a great way to demonstrate key points. Plus, the employee can easily pause or rewind part of the video to understand the concept in more detail. And it's a fact that people retain more through video than they do through text format.
The point of formal training is to connect new concepts to the employees taking the training. The issue is sometimes people don’t see the point of taking the training they have been assigned. To counteract this, use simulations. Just like a pilot watches a pretend flight before actually flying, an employee can walk through their job before actually performing it. Simulations are an opportunity to be thrown into a situation and forced to act. And it’s a lot easier to relate to training when you make employees the center of training.
Unlike gamification which uses awards or recognition as the training tool, you can also use games as a formal learning tool. Playing games is a great way to exercise the brain and get employees interacting with the training. For example, you could quiz the employees and see if their score can beat that of the system or you could play games among co-workers. Whether you use riddles, puzzles or interactive games, it will make training fun and offer instant engagement.
Tools to use in informal learning
Just like formal learning, there are tools even for informal learning that can pair well with your training program. Here are some of the tools to implement.
When an employee takes a training course, they will forget sections of what they learned over time. So a way to counteract this is by using informal learning and a tool like an infographic. Have downloadable takeaways after a course is complete. That way an employee can make quick reference when they need the information in real time. This informal learning on-the-fly further drives key skills to memory.
Offer training support
As part of your formal learning, include training support that is available 24/7. Whether this is a chatbot, email support or an informational call center, this calls attention to informal learning. Say for example, an employee completes a course on customer service and fully understands the lesson. However, once they are back on the job they can’t recall how to react in a given situation. Instead of searching through training sessions or asking a co-worker, they can get the learning they need from training support.
Create a social network
People use the Internet to search for answers to questions. They likewise use their social networks to learn new skills and get questions answered. So, a great tool for informal learning is building a social network. This allows employees to exchange information to one another and get answers to questions quickly. You can also use this as a way to set up a mentorship program for newer team members and for sharing among different teams. Not only does this build comradery, but it makes asking for help less formal.
Although microlearning can be used within a formal learning module, it’s also great for informal learning. Say an employee needs a quick refresher course on a key topic or just wants the high level details of a training course. Including a section in your learning management system for microlearning sessions is ideal. Employees who need answers immediately and are limited on time, can use these sessions to learn-on-the-go.
Another idea for informal learning is to have a list of optional online industry webinars. Then either display this information in your learning database or eblast upcoming opportunities to employees. That way, employees can pick and choose the ones that work best for them when they need the additional support.
Formal and informal learning add value
The success to any training program is employee buy-in and needed skills applied to the job. While this sounds easy, sometimes it’s hard to implement. But by creating a formal learning program and recognizing when and how your employees learn outside of this program is key. You can then take this information and create valuable informal training tools to supplement your formal training. Your employees will appreciate the various ways they can access information and you have a better learning retention ratio for your company.