Learning in the workplace

Jane Hart asked readers “how regularly are you “learning” in the workplace?” Here are the top five ways that people learn, with my comments below on how this can be facilitated in the organization, either by management or the learning support group. Notice that these are all informal. The more formal methods, like courses, ranked much lower on the survey results.

Email (keeping up to date inside the organization)

Since email is the number one method of keeping up to date, find ways to make it easier or replace it with a world without email.  Using internal blogs for any multi-recipient email is a start. That way it’s visible, in one permanent place, with all the comments attached.

In-person conversations (keeping up to date inside the organization)

Create space for people to talk. Regular company coffee breaks can be supplemented with white boards or flip charts to encourage knowledge sharing. Take pictures of what’s going on and post them. Photos can encourage conversation. Small nooks with comfortable seating invite conversations. Changing office layout can change behaviours and even encourage inter-departmental conversations.

“At Pixar, east of San Francisco, [Steve] Jobs oversaw the design of the new building. Because the software jockeys worked in one area and the marketing folks worked in another and so forth, he decided to put the bathrooms in a central atrium. That way, employees had to run into each other each day.”

Read blog posts/online articles (keeping up to date outside the organization)

Point out good reading resources. Aggregate learning resources and get input on the best sources, as we have done with Working Smarter Daily. Use social bookmarks to share what you’re reading.

Search the Social Web using search engines (solve problems)

Put together resources on how to search. You may be surprised how few people know how to search effectively. For example: Compfight for images; GoogleGuide; Tools for Search; Four Ways to Search the Social Web.

Connect with others in public social networks or in private groups or communities (keeping up to date outside the organization)

Participate in and recommend social learning communities that meet the needs of your organization. If you don’t have any private social networks, try some out, like Yammer or Socialcast.

These are all relatively simple and fairly inexpensive things that can be done to support workplace learning. It’s amazing how many Learning & Development departments do not get involved in these types of activities. Not supporting active, informal workplace learning will just make the formal training function even less relevant.

2 Responses to “Learning in the workplace”

  1. Yannick Roy

    The results seem valid in most part for professional and manager level employees, but i would like to see if the results would be different in a more procedures base work. I work mostly with government employee training. I don’t think, In those organisations, that the agent level employees learn as much informally. My guess his the rely more on official sources for their learning: email, memos, team meeting, formal learning etc. They are not using collaborative tool or self research for their work at all.

    It would also be intereseting to see how each level of employee describe what his a learning content. My guess his we would not be the same for all.

    Ps: sorry for my english, it his not my first language…


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