Learning & Development

How Can You Foster Informal Learning in the Workplace?

Trainers can tap the power of informal learning by incorporating “the three Es” (environment, education, and encouragement) into their training strategy, says Ronda Davis, CPLP, PMP, who is training manager at MicroPact.

First, create an environment that is conducive to learning and that promotes a learning culture from the top down, says Davis.

Second, educate employees about informal learning. “Let people know what it is, what resources are out there, where to go for more information,” she explains.

Third, encourage employees to tap those resources on their own—before, during, and after training, Davis recommends.

Studies show that 75% of learning in the workplace is achieved through informal learning—that is, learning that takes place outside of structured training programs, Davis says. So, it is important to acknowledge the power of informal learning and leverage it. 

Davis says informal learning occurs in many ways, including researching a topic online via articles, videos, and webcasts; taking online classes; asking peers, coworkers, and friends for advice; and reading books, e-books, and user guides.

Trainers can encourage informal learning before a structured training program begins by providing an assignment in advance and giving learners some latitude in how they accomplish it, Davis says. During a session, trainers can leverage informal learning by giving learners a task to complete on their own, such as searching a topic online and then sharing what they learned, she adds.

After training, trainers can encourage informal learning by setting up a private Facebook group for current and/or past attendees to share advice and resources, Davis says. She notes that this also is an effective way to keep participants engaged in the topic and to help content stick after training.

In addition, setting up an online community helps ensure that the information participants receive is accurate. She says other ways to help ensure the accuracy of information gathered through informal learning is to offer reputable resources to learners and encourage them to rely on advice that is shared by multiple sources.