Remember the good old days when workplace learning involved spending hours in a stuffy room watching lacklustre videos, only to forget everything you’d “learned” by the time you got home?
As tempting as it would be to stay in that special place forever, in recent years, a lot has changed. While there’s still a place for traditional learning, it’s no longer the only option. Informal learning has slowly and steadily found its place in the world of workplace education, and employees are enjoying getting to learn on their own terms.
It wasn’t long ago that the idea of working from the comfort of your own bed — we mean, home office — was a distant fantasy for most. Now, it’s just plain old reality. And as we come to grips with that reality, we realise that we cannot solely rely on traditional learning in a modern workplace.
Did you know? 76% of Gen Z see learning as the key to succeeding in their careers, and the top priority they have for their L&D is relevant learning content.
In this article, we’ll outline how informal learning represents an alternative to the norm that meets your employees’ needs through a learning experience that is flexible, autonomous, and motivating.
What is informal learning in the workplace?
Good question. As much as we’d like to write an article about how turning up to the classroom in pyjamas is an objectively good idea, that’s not what informal learning means. Rather, informal learning is a term that describes learning delivered in an unstructured, unsupervised format. Unlike formal training, which involves a set agenda at a set time, the onus is on the student to learn at their own pace, when it suits them, using technology and content that enables them. Here are some examples:
- Watching videos and presentations
- Reading articles
- Gamified learning experiences
- Listening to podcasts
- Attending conferences, meet-ups, and other events
- Engaging with like-minded learners via online forums, communities, and meet-ups
Learning informally is what many of us do online in our free time, perhaps unknowingly. According to research by the Journal of Business and Psychology, it’s how 70-90%1 of learning takes place.
In the workplace, informal learning allows employees to grow and develop in a way that is sustainable, motivational, and self-directed — whether in the office or at home.
So, what are some of the benefits of informal learning in the workplace?
1. Your employees will feel heard
Where traditional learning succeeds is the defined syllabus and structure created by HR departments, as it ensures everyone completes the training needed and has all the knowledge they need to do their job effectively.
However, this can have some serious drawbacks especially in a hybrid workplace, as employees have grown more used to autonomy and being able to get tasks done in their own time, where and how they please. People don’t all learn in the same way, and offering employees a versatile, informal learning environment can make education more fruitful.
Just like Ian in Accounts who recently took up yodelling, employees want their voices to be heard. They want a say in how their work lives look and feel. And workplace learning is no different.
By encouraging employees to learn on their own terms, you’ll establish a culture of mutual trust, professional growth, and flexibility — a culture that promotes learning.
Suggested reading: Helping your employees feel heard doesn’t stop at informal learning. Read about how you can improve your conversations with your team in this cracking blog (if we do say so ourselves).
2. It encourages team-building
While informal learning is directed by the individual, it doesn’t have to be done alone. In many cases, it can be a team process that happens in casual social situations — team lunches, video calls, and other gatherings.
What’s more, informal learning at work helps build a culture of openness and mutual support between team members. People feel comfortable sharing information, helping others achieve their learning goals, and finding creative ways to fill knowledge gaps, which naturally leads to better learning outcomes.
3. The workplace benefits too
What’s good for your employees is good for your business. While there are some exceptions — like your IT manager winning the lottery and resigning the next day — this statement is generally true, and informal learning is a fine example.
On top of the benefits for your employees that we’ve outlined in this article, informal learning is a win-win, benefitting the business in the following ways:
- Employees become more motivated and knowledgeable, allowing them to sustain the momentum of learning, which leads to higher performance.
- Being trusted to take charge of your own learning process leads to employee engagement, which also leads to higher performance and reduced turnover.
- It allows you to become more agile and flexible as a business — and if recent years have shown us anything, it’s that businesses must be able to adapt to an ever-changing world.
- You create a positive learning environment that is actually conducive to learning — as opposed to the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other approach of old — resulting in an improved ROI.
4. Do it anywhere, anytime
While the shift to hybrid and remote teams has brought huge benefits for employees and businesses, it still comes with a cost. With employees increasingly separated from one another in terms of location, there’s a real challenge to ensure that they feel connected on a personal level.
Remote working also has the potential to drive a wedge between employees and the business, making it more complicated to work traditional learning pathways and schedules around different work patterns and time zones.
Want to know how to improve your hybrid workspace? Well would you look at that, we have a webinar on just that.
Informal learning fixes these issues by allowing employees to shape their learning journeys around their day-to-day tasks. What’s more, it can be introduced slowly, in a way that suits employees’ preferences.
Informal learning has the potential to be split up into modules or streaming, giving employees the ability to do them anytime, anywhere. Back these up with traditional workshops, and you have the perfect blend of collaboration and autonomy, letting your team tailor their learning experiences to their needs. And guess what! Employees find it easier to learn when they actually feel like learning. Who’d have thought?
Here’s how we can help
At Video Arts, we’ve been making learning content for over 50 years. One thing we’ve learned in that time is that to learn effectively, people need to be engaged, interested, and in charge of their learning journeys.
In particular, we’ve found that one key ingredient helps learners retain information: humour. Why? Because nothing catches people’s attention and brings them into the present in the same way. Combining learning content with humour and entertainment makes it memorable, even remarkable — and that’s exactly what we do.
Through our interactive learning platform, jam-packed library, and memorable content featuring the cream of British comedic talent, we provide managers with the assets they need to build a successful informal learning strategy, while empowering employees to learn in a way that is natural and fun. And who doesn’t like fun? Besides the old receptionist, Carol.
By now you probably get the picture — we think our content is just a little bit splendid, and we think that you’ll agree. So, enough of our trumpet-blowing. Over to you. If you’d like to see for yourself how humour does wonders for engagement and learning, contact us here. Or, go a step further and book a trial! You won’t regret it.