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8 Best practices to facilitate informal learning

Without ruling out traditional L&D practices, informal learning should find its way into today’s workplace. Informal learning is very cost effective and learner-oriented, promoting a growth mindset. There are many ways to encourage it in an organization because businesses are made of people and that is how they grow and acquire information. Once the best suited mediums are set up, it will all flow unhindered from there.

Most informal learning happens with no intentionality on the learner’s part but there are some ways to facilitate it. Here are eight of them:

  1. A good buddy system

    People learn best from those they like or admire. Chemistry is important, so setting up a framework in which employees can choose a mentor is a first step. Of course, this will only work if the company has an overall growth culture that encourages asking questions, experience sharing, and shadowing.

  2. On the job experimentation

    People learn best from first-hand experience, but most often they are afraid of making mistakes in the workplace so they hesitate to tackle challenging issues or look for ways to innovate. However, if the company encourages employees to experiment without worrying about being reprimanded, they will feel more comfortable and become more productive.

  3. A job rotation system

    Most of the issues that occur among employees from various departments that need to work together come from a lack of true understanding of what each role implies. Giving people the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work at somebody else’s desk will allow them to expand their knowledge and their understanding of how the organization works.

  4. Dedicated time for employee projects

    People need to have a sense of purpose to be motivated. The outcomes for a company that allows time for employee projects can be tremendous - Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter and Slack all started as side projects. If the organization can’t afford to give away so much time there can be a couple of days per semester when people can team up and work on what they like.

  5. Social sharing

    Harnessing the immense power of social media in the organization can be beneficial. Everything from microblogs to wikis, video sharing, article sharing and online forums will boost learning. L&D professionals can act as moderators but the content should be primarily user-generated or shared.

  6. Communities of practice

    This is similar with social sharing, but has a more targeted objective. Internet-based communities of practice can act as useful hubs for people who work in the same areas. They can connect, share ideas and even work together on projects when that proves necessary or simply more effective.

  7. On-demand learning

    Having a set of well thought out learning programs ensures that all employees will get a certain degree of instruction. In addition, an organization with a solid growth culture that encourages informal learning should have an open library with different resources from books to e-learning modules.

  8. Fun and games

    Last but not least, a lot of learning is done through games. Incorporating game mechanics not only in formal training interventions but also in everyday activities will increase retention and bring higher engagement rates. Ultimately, games can be serious business and generate great results.

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