Monday, July 04, 2005

Capital Works

Informal Learning
by Rebecca Lloyd

From Knowledge Management Magazine November 2000
Not only do employee learning programs based on informal methods and self-study increase employee knowledge and productivity far more than more formalized methods, they also cost less, according to preliminary research by CapitalWorks LLC, a human capital management service in Williamstown, Mass. Approximately 75 percent of the skills employees use on the job were learned informally, the study found, through discussions with coworkers, asynchronous self-study (such as e-mail-based coursework), mentoring by managers and supervisors and similar methods. Only 25 percent were gained from formal training methods such as workshops, seminars and synchronous classes.

The study draws a direct correlation between increased learning and improved performance by employees. The graph shows the preponderance of informal learning over formal in contributing to the development of employee proficiency.

As for cost, because most informal learning occurs as a natural part of the workday, it consumes little or no additional budget. Formal training, on the other hand, usually requires money spent on materials, instructors and possibly travel. In addition, even informal methods that might incur expense, such as self-paced coursework, can be scheduled around an employee’s normal duties, thus reducing the amount of lost work hours.

How can companies take advantage of these findings? CapitalWorks advises shifting focus and budget away from formal training programs toward increasing the opportunities for informal learning is key to increasing employee knowledge and thus productivity.

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