5 Ways Informal Learning Gets Learners Engaged and Excited

• 4 min read

Informal learning encourages learning in the flow of work – here are 5 ways to help you make it happen.

When was the last time you or someone at your company took part in an in-person, instructor-led L&D activity? And when was the last time you asked a colleague for guidance or an answer to a question you had on the job? 

For most people, the second scenario plays out almost daily.

In fact, those formal learning situations are becoming less of a fixture in L&D as awareness grows around the need to foster and encourage more informal learning opportunities.

A recent report by the Conference Board of Canada found that 62% of learning activity in Canadian workplaces is informal, compared with only 38%  formal learning.

These figures are in stark contrast to those from 2004 when 88% of learning activity was formal with only 12% informal. While these numbers represent a sample restricted to Canada, they do highlight a trend among companies around the world that are recognizing the need to make the most of informal learning and understand how it can best be deployed across their organizations using modern learning platforms to encourage learning in the flow of work. 

In fact, the best results of an informal learning strategy are those rooted in opportunities for learning in the flow of work. To help you make it happen in your company, we’ve outlined five ways you can make better use of the informal learning that’s already happening to engage and excite employees about their jobs and professional development.

1. Informal learning encourages all types of learners to contribute and share

Some learners may be intimidated by asking questions in classroom situations or during meetings. Using digital channels, such as a company messaging tool or a learning platform, enables these shyer types to provide valuable contributions to learning conversations as they’re less likely to hold back from asking questions or providing answers if they can type things out.

2. It gives learners the freedom to create valuable learning content 

One of Docebo’s customers, a telecommunications company, completely transformed its learning strategy by switching from a top-down, formal learning approach to an informal and social learning strategy that encouraged employees to create their own learning content. The company found that the content produced was more relevant, authentic and applicable employees’ jobs. Over 200 courses or learning resources were created within 12 months and, in that time, employee satisfaction with their L&D activities increased  10%, while the number of active users on the company’s Docebo learning platform also increased. 

3. It’s the best way to connect with Gen Z learners

More than 60% of Gen Z’ers share knowledge online, in the form of YouTube videos, blog posts, or Medium articles. This is a group of true digital natives who will make up 20% of the global workforce by 2020 who also have a deeply ingrained desire to collaborate and get their hands dirty creating great content.  

Organizations must embrace social and informal learning while providing the technology necessary to ensure this process is as seamless as possible to make sure their Gen Z employees buy in to their learning programs. 

4. It fosters a culture of continuous learning

A report published by Docebo found that in high-performance organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a rate four-times greater than that of workers in lower-performing firms. That communication is supported by rewarding workers for learning, providing tools and resources for creating and sharing learning content, and making knowledge sharing a performance expectation at all organizational levels.

Building a culture of continuous learning in your organization is more about adopting an inside-out approach, where employees are encouraged to teach and guide each other, rather than being led by external subject matter experts or externally-produced formal courses to drive their learning initiatives.

5. It helps your top performers get recognized

Using informal learning to share knowledge requires buy-in from your learners, which is a major driver to ensuring learning programs reward top contributors for their efforts. Recognition could be something as simple as labelling top contributors an “expert” label once they’ve added a specified number of learning resources to your learning platform. Doing so also provides the L&D leaders a better understanding of those internal subject matter experts, who they are and how they can be developed even further to provide additional value.

Are you ready to make the most of informal learning? Use these 4 questions to understand if you’re ready or not:

  • Are people being encouraged to learn from, and reflect on their day-to-day experiences?
  • Do L&D staff members encourage managers and team leaders to support learning through experience?
  • Are performance support and job aids being provided by L&D to support workplace activities?
  • Do people have easy access to learning resources, with content curation strategies in place to help them make sense of the range of resources available and easily find what they need when they need it?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you might have some work to do before you can successfully deploy an informal learning strategy that works. Want to learn more about why informal learning is one of the most effective ways to enhance employee engagement and drive organizational performance? Check out Docebo’s whitepaper on Engagement Through Workplace Learning.