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The Value of Informal Learning for Employees

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Oct 9, 2018

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Formal training class where employees have to sit and listen to the instructor is part of the formal learning program that most HR or compliance put in effect. The thing is, training budget in the last couple of years has greatly reduced and it happens in many places.

Without learning something new, the employees won’t be able to cope effectively with the work demand. They need to keep learning and progressing every day. This is where informal learning comes in handy.

Informal learning offers immediate information that caters the employee specific need. The schedule is flexible and it fit perfectly into the fast pace of business today. The most important of all, the employee are enthusiastic about it, which is something that they don’t usually get from the formal class.

Read also about: treating employee like customer is the road to successful business

Definition of Informal Learning

Basically, informal learning refer to the situation where the learner, in this case, the employee, able to find out about something they wish to learn whether it was about the process, content, situation, and location. The whole process could happen with or without the learner fully aware of.

Some examples of informal learning are:

- Video course

- E-book

- Discussion both inside or outside a meeting room

- Observation

- Experimenting with something

- Browsing for specific information online, and so on

The Advantage of Informal Learning

Informal learning has so many advantages which makes it popular among the employees:

- The employer has the power to decide to learn what they want to learn rather than having someone else to decide for them.

- Informal learning is usually based on life experience and applicable in real life situation, not just some theory, which makes it more useful for the learner.

- Informal learning is not confined to chair and class. The learner can learn from anywhere they want, even while they are having coffee break

- The cost of informal learning is usually lower than the formal one.

How to Put more Value in Informal Learning and Incorporate it in Work Environment

Encourage the culture of continuous informal learning and development in a work environment can be done by:

- Encourage the employee to set a learning objective. It can be done during one on one meeting, setting up a new challenge that will force the employee to learn something new to meet that challenge, and by emphasizing learning and development as part of company policy.

- Set up a mentoring partnership where the senior employee works together with the new worker. It will allow the employee to learn from one another and not just from a limited set of expert on the office. Partner rotation also works great to make sure everyone can learn something new from everyone else.

- Instead of a passive lecture, develop a facilitated session and interactive workshops. Allow the employee to learn by doing and not just by listening.

- Provide the employee with helpful source and/or access to it, where they can learn something from reliable source. The leader could do this by providing training budget for massive open online courses, subscription-only journals, industry podcast, and also informative blogs.

- Provide the necessary tool and make sure the employee know that they can use the tool as part of their informal learning process.

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