Human capital

Harnessing Informal Learning for the Organization’s Human Capital

Training has been seen for a long time as the development of courses and modules and the implementation of learning events that seek to improve the performance of people at work. This might sound ideal but in this world where the fast beats the slow, it is important to embrace the reality of informal learning. People at work seem to have “learning paralysis” because they are convinced that it is the sole responsibility of training managers to impart learning – like this is the only outlet for real, relevant, ready-to-apply information that can significantly impact the way they do things at the office. Sadly this is not the case. Informal learning covers for picking up tidbits of professional tips, morsels of industry-exclusive best practices, and team specific inputs that does not require the expense of time and money most training programs demand. How can you actually embrace informal learning and speed up your organization’s learning pursuits?

Integrate informal learning to your organization’s culture

Make sure that your organization is not a sucker for red tape and excessive politics where experienced workers tend to hoard information that can make work easier and faster. Embrace team work and encourage peer to peer instruction that can pass on important bits of information that can directly impact work performance. Also make sure that leaders in the organization understand the importance of this simple concept. This can translate to more informal workplace instruction initiated by more experienced and more effective workers, appreciated by new hires and struggling talents inside the organization.

Let the leaders in the organization embrace empowerment

Empowerment is simply the courage to let people learn on their own through giving them huge tasks that are normally done by people in the higher ups. It is also the willingness of the leader to put himself on the line by sharing the blame when things go wrong. This kind of thinking between leaders and teams create an expectation for learning and the burden for coaching and tutoring in the work place. What you get is an organization that loves passing on knowledge and letting new people learn fast. This also make informal learning more dynamic, pushing people to embrace their responsibility to learn on their own for the sake of self-improvement.

Change the way you develop training programs

Training programs often tend to be too restrictive, discouraging people to explore learning and finding more ways to better the information being passed on. Training managers should be more sensitive and careful in developing learning materials. It should allow leaders and team members to explore the concepts presented to them, giving them more space to “play” with the learning. This can encourage on the job and incidental learning that is often the genesis of good and timely solutions to work problems.

Structure unstructured learning

This is just another way of saying formalizing informal learning. There must be structure, just enough to make learning efficient, not too much to stifle teaching, not too loose either which can dramatically diminish the cohesiveness of the inputs being passed. Training managers must be objective enough to redefine their roles to make sure informal learning is harnessed and maximized by the organization.


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