Adding Informal Learning to the Mix – Start Somewhere

How much learning and professional development takes place in an organization that is never tracked, never documented in any formal way? It just happens, as individuals reach out to a variety of people and resources to answer questions, share ideas and information, learn new skills, or collaborate (and maybe someone takes notes along the way). Would there be a benefit to capturing more of that information sharing?

In a recent post on the role of the Enterprise Learning Community Manager, Jane Hart describes what it might look like for an organization to engage someone in the role of facilitating enterprise-learning in all types of ways, formal, informal, and social. While this role might be considered a facilitator of learning, it could just as well be considered a business facilitator, since learning is a key function of any successful organization.

While creating such a role may not yet be on the radar for organizations already consumed with endless training for compliance, software conversions, or any number of new initiatives, why not at least dip our toes in addressing a broader learning/performance strategy?

Suppose for example, a training department for a healthcare organization is tasked with developing classroom and e-Learning training modules for a major upgrade to their electronic medical record system. Rather than relying exclusively on formal training (whether classroom or online), why not leverage a simple social networking platform linked to the company intranet and encourage participants to share information about the upgrade informally? The training group could then monitor and facilitate the network, with an eye toward curating the information along the way to identify best practices and updated procedures.

Information could then be shared real-time by system developers, analysts, project managers, trainers, and subject matter experts. Vehicles for information sharing could include blogs, discussion forums, screencasts, wiki pages, and micro-blogging archives. Individuals tasked with training outcomes could facilitate the social network platform, gathering and curating useful content that could later be developed quickly into more formalized learning content, particularly for newer system users.

But someone will inevitably ask, what about making sure the information is accurate? What if something is posted that isn’t approved, finalized, or even correct? To answer that question, all we have to do is consider how “correct” our formal training content is at time of go-live in most organizations, given the tendency for system changes to be happening up to, during, and after the “go-live” event. In reality, training content is rarely up-to-date by the time it is formalized, approved, and published. And even if it is up-to-date initially, it won’t be for long. System and business processes change much too quickly for the training function to keep up. A more organic, social-based and collaborative approach is needed.

It’s time to think more broadly and more strategically about training, learning and performance. And taking an approach that leverages informal learning and knowledge sharing, along with more formal training content, may be a good place to start.


About Darrin Hayes

I'm a workplace learning and performance professional with experience in the HealthCare, Higher Education, Technology, and Non-Profit industries. Specialties: Learning Technology Solutions / Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Training Design / Learning and Performance Ecosystems / Content Management / Training Delivery / Project Management / Communications
This entry was posted in Knowledge vs Performance, Social Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

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