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Do you think you got it? What really makes informal learning effective

How “social” are you at work?  No, I don’t mean chit chat about your weekend, but how effectively you’re using social collaboration tools to improve how well you share information and co-create solutions with others to support informal learning.

From my research of leading companies across Canada, I’ve seen an early preview that the ideal environment includes “social learning communities of practice” that are tied to job outcomes.  These are ideally also linked to courses, along with formal and informal learning events, but I’m uncovering that this part is more of L&D’s utopian hope to still be part of the company after social learning grows.

Other emerging best practices for using social learning for skill development reveal that having clear role requirements for each job creates a compelling case for employees to proactively seek out the skills they need. What’s effective is not L&D telling people their required skills, but employees discovering what skills matter to them personally in their quest for career development. What’s missing, however, is employees’ pull and innate drive to push aside pressing work demands to focus on self-development.

If employees want to change roles, they’ll note the competencies they need to make that change and hopefully, the organization will publicize the learning courses mapped to those competencies while the culture supports and measure each employee’s development efforts. Did you notice my hint of skepticism on that?  I think we have a long way to go to helping employees learn informally. This was also painfully apparent in my research.

I think anything that’s becoming a habit or an expectation in our personal lives will carry over into the workplace. And informal learning is what the modern learner is experiencing every day in their lives.  Other changes in information ownership have also been underway for years.  Social media, news aggregators and advanced search algorithms are how people curate their news. There is more potential there for learning, and it will be interesting to see how we as L&D can successfully leverage that.

Through my research on social and informal learning in the Canadian workplace, I was able to produce a comprehensive whitepaper detailing the peaks and pitfalls experienced by both employees and managers alike while trying to employ collaboration technology and take social learning to a larger scale. Read it here.

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