Informal learning is ushering in a revolution both inside and outside the workplace. Many of us would agree that learning takes place nowadays whilst we’re on the move. Whether it be Googling a specific restaurant to check the menu before we arrive to downloading the most current news report.
For organizations, informal learning provides an opportunity to reduce costs, improve productivity and encourage team and workplace cohesiveness and inclusion.However, it is easier said than done. There are many challenges that prevent embedding informal learning effectively within the organization.
Here are the top four informal learning challenges that we have identified and our suggestions to overcome them.
Making it Too Formal
Probably the single biggest challenge today is integrating and formalizing informal learning without too much control and without sacrificing its unique learner-driven characteristics.
It is crucial to obtain a balance where informal learning operates in an environment that is relevant to the organization and supports formal learning without being too formulaic and taking away control from the learner.
The huge amount of information a typical employee must digest today is another challenge, making it all the more important that the information they access is personalized and relevant to their role. The unstructured and less controlled aspects of informal learning can mean there is a danger that, at times, learners are accessing information they don’t really need, thereby exacerbating information overload.
It is with these issues in mind that there is an onus on HR and L&D departments to develop internal collaborative technology tools that can personalize learning for each individual in addition to providing other capabilities, such as filtering.
The relevance and appropriateness of content that learners are accessing as part of informal networks and informal learning are also a challenge and again link to the control issue. How can you be sure that the information and expertise captured in informal learning will contribute to your company’s ethos? Is there a danger of decentralizing such knowledge and learning to such an extent that it has no relevance to the organization? Informal learning today must be linked to specific skills development and talent management strategies and structured in such a way that it has a measurable impact on individual and organizational performance.
Another challenge is measurement. No matter how informal and independent the learning may be, informal learning still needs to be measurable with a clear focus on ROI. In this way, learner progress can be charted and the significant investments in technology evaluated. In today’s results-driven environment, metrics rule the day and it’s naive to think informal learning is different. Such metrics will also be essential for future investments and more widespread organizational adoption.
Yet, at the same time, there is danger that trying to track and control informal learning the same way organizations manage formal learning puts its unique characteristics at risk. There are a number of ways in which informal learning can be measured. Learning and talent management suites can also now provide the ability to link social networking and collaboration, contributions directly into performance appraisal documents and training histories.
A useful already mentioned metric that correlates to the successful spread of informal learning is employee engagement, measured directly in surveys or when looking at social feedback mechanisms used most frequently by employees. Other metrics might include productivity, training costs and even turn over. The fact remains, however, that some learning across the enterprise will never be captured, but still has a positive impact on employee engagement and productivity. Measurement, however, will remain an important driver.
Cegos Asia Pacific can help you effectively introduce and manage informal learning in your workplace. Interested? Email us today to arrange a free consultation – firstname.lastname@example.org.