Why informal learning is a worthwhile investment

by Brett Henebery28 Aug 2017
Research shows at least 80% of work-related skills are learned on the job or informally, but only one in five organisations spend just 10% of their L&D budget on informal learning methods.

But why might this be?

Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, Senior Vice President of Research at PageUp – an HR software company, shared her thoughts on this question with L&D Professional.

“I think it's more a case of organisations defaulting to what they've always done - delivering formal training and structured courses gives L&D full control over organisational learning,” she said.

“Formal learning also lends itself to simple reporting metrics, such as attendance and completion rates. But the tables are turning and technology is making it possible for L&D to deliver, monitor and track informal learning as part of the L&D mix.​”

Vorhauser-Smith said PageUp raised this point in its recently published book, Cliff-hanger: HR on the Precipice in the Future of Work, under the ​prediction​ of ‘the end of best practice’.

“Investment in informal learning is increasing as more and more organisations realise just how 'sticky' on-demand micro-content such as online blogs, podcasts ​and​ videos are for engaging ​employees of all generations​,” she said.

“With advancements in mobile learning technology, it's now much easier for employees to share informal learning content with their peers, sending it viral across the organisation.”

​Vorhauser-Smith pointed out that it hasn't always been easy to share and collaborate on learning, but said today's enterprise learning apps mean this is simple and engaging.

“What's more, all of this activity can​ be tracked and measured,” she said.

“This means learning outcomes can be quantified, and even concerns about content moderation to ensure employees are sharing appropriate learning​ are reduced.

“People have always learnt informally, and formal education and training has supplemented that. Enterprises are now just leveraging what is a very natural and intuitive way of increasing their employees' knowledge and skills.”

Related stories:
The surprising link between office friendships and learning
Why ‘lifelong learning’ is becoming the new norm