@Ecollab asks, “Can we formalize informal learning?” My answer, “We've been there, done that.” Except for perhaps compliance learning programs, formal learning processes are designed to do exactly that. For example:
When we put in place a training platform (learning to do a present job) we are ensuring the workers learn a certain process that should not be left to chance. By chance I mean that the workers MIGHT discover a process that they should be following so that your product and/or service is delivered to the customers correctly, thus they learn it informally. Whenever we initiate a training program we are saying that this process is too important to be left to chance (informal learning).
When we put in place an education program (learning to do a future job) we are ensuring that we have in place a critical position that we cannot do without. Most workers learn to do their coworker's job through informal learning. However, some positions are vital to a critical process, thus we cannot leave it to chance (informal learning).
Whenever we develop workers (helping them to grow so that the organization grows), we are helping them to learn certain skills that would otherwise would have to be left to chance (informal learning). For example, in my last post, Driving the Informal with the Formal, I discussed how to capture lessons learned with an AAR and social media.
Note: If you are lost with the three terms (training, education, and development), see The Three Words Your Customer Must Know.
I think this 80/20 informal/formal thingy is kind of going in the wrong way. We should be spending the majority of our time on 20% of the learning taking place within our organization — remember the Pareto principle? Thus you should be asking:
- What processes are critical for delivering our product/service and do we need to ensure that our workers learn them correctly?
- What tasks are so vital to a processes that we have to ensure we educate someone to be a backup?
- How can we best develop our workers so that we continue to grow as a company? What we think of as the "informal" will most often fall into this category.
The 80/20 rule is exactly what we should be doing; however, ensure that the 20% that you are spending most of your time on is the RIGHT 20%.