The Power of Workplace Learning! (Seven Tips for Professionals)

Use the power of workplace learning!
Despite their massive participation in various forms of formal education or training, most professionals confirm that they have had most of their learning experiences on the job. When asked where they had their most impressive learning experience, ninety percent of all respondents answered “at the work place”. Nevertheless, research shows that most organizations are showing a bigger interest in formal learning and training than in informal learning in practice.

Informal learning
Many managers and professionals learn informally on the job, without any intervention of school, university or training company. Sometimes learning experiences can be a result of executing challenging tasks under pressure. In other occasions informal learning takes place by observing, role modeling or copying best practices from coworkers. Informal learning is not structured, planned or managed. It does include purposeful activities like reflection, practicing, organizing feedback etc. however.

The top 5 informal learning methods according to Cheetham & Chivers and Jay Cross are:

  1. Learning on the job, in the work place by doing the job
  2. Working with colleagues that are more experienced
  3. Working in teams
  4. Analyzing progress and reflecting
  5. Learning from customers, patients, suppliers etc.

Seven tips for managers and professionals on informal / workplace learning:

  1. Do not confuse learning with getting a degree or diploma
  2. Learning is much more than attending training. Training only makes sense when lack of competence turns out to be a root cause in performance improvement issues. In most cases it turns out to be not the case, which makes investments in training useless.
  3. Stimulate reflection in order to focus on the learning experience in practical situations.
  4. Underline the importance of registering personal developments in a Personal Development Plan.
  5. Support learning via social networks. Endorse the learning possibilities of these modern networks and use Team Development Plans to intensify learning functions.
  6. Role models are both useful and practical in order to learn. Identifying valuable or best performers enables coworkers to learn from the tacit knowledge available in teams, organizations or networks.
  7. Do not hesitate; open your eyes and crib! The best performing professionals have been discovering alternatives to bypass systems or processes in the organization, they have been learning how to deal with performance barriers: better tools, more information and the willingness to get around procedures.

Learning professionals may still be assessing the different approaches in formal and informal learning. Managers and professionals have passed this stage and have started to use informal learning in a natural way to improve productivity. Can learning professional afford to stay behind….?