Invest in Informal Training to Strengthen Your Business and Bolster Hybrid Work

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
August 15, 2022

When it comes to workplace development, we often turn to our colleagues, mentors, or someone in our network for advice. How many times have you reached out to a peer in another organization to help you learn a new tool or had coffee with a mentor to pick their brain a new skill or role?

These opportunities to develop are known as informal learning experiences. There is no structured curriculum or classroom. Someone in need of knowledge is seeking it out from a trusted peer or someone from their networks.

Despite the fact that this type of learning is widely practiced and more effective than formal approaches, informal learning experiences are often missing from the corporate budget, and informal development tools are left completely out of the talent stack.

Creating time and programming dedicated to informal learning is proving even more important as many employers are relying on hybrid work models. Nowadays, team members are getting brief exposure to in-person collaboration opportunities and employee connections are still expected to occur organically, which doesn’t suit the new world of work. 

Planned opportunities to collaborate informally with colleagues and leaders — especially in hybrid settings — can be the accelerant needed to upskill employees and support their career development.

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between informal and formal training, and how the 10KC platform can create structured informal development experiences that will connect and upskill the employees in your hybrid organization.

What’s the difference between formal and informal training?

Informal training programs rely on discussion, e-learning, workshops, and mentoring to not only teach participants the skills they need, but to practice them too.

Examples of this in an office include watching your colleague navigate a new software, talking to your supervisor about the next steps for getting a promotion or observing how other departments tackle an everyday challenge. These are all activities that are done in person but can also be successfully replicated in a virtual environment with the right tools.

Formal training programs, on the other hand, use structured courses, modules, and testing that guide participants through a curriculum. Examples of this include LinkedIn Learning certifications, onboarding programs, or annual compliance training.

Why informal training wins the learning race

The benefits of informal learning are superior to those of a formal approach. Informal learning wins out as a better way to develop employees because it emphasizes social learning and allows employees’ to seek out support for their unique needs, rather than having human resources or L&D departments assume their needs.

According to the 70:20:10 Institute, 70% of all learning comes from “experience, experiment and reflection, and 20% derives from working with others.” Only 10% of learning comes from “formal interventions and planned learning solutions.”

That means that no matter how many formal training sessions your company offers, employees are still likely to learn more from friends and informal experiences than from expensive training and formal education programs.

How informal training keeps hybrid workplaces connected

Informal training relies on a few key principles: collaboration, creativity, and curiosity. Inherent in all of these is learning and tackling challenges alongside other people.

Sometimes, we can get so bogged down in our roles that we forget there are loads of people around us to help out. The same goes for when we want to learn something new. Maybe our first inclination is to turn to a certificate program or training course. But there are so many experts already in the office who can help develop a new skill.

Other types of informal training, like workshops or discussions, also put the emphasis on bringing groups of people together to dissect a topic or learn a new approach to problem solving. It challenges people to put their heads together rather than approach something alone.

When companies rely on informal training to upskill employees and strengthen teams, collaboration is natural. As organizations explore and define what their hybrid work arrangement looks like, informal training proves a flexible solution.

Some companies are choosing to meet in person yearly or biannually for retreats where sessions or workshops can be conducted. Others are splitting time equally for employees between home and office, where in-person collaboration happens often. Even for those who spend no time in the office, it’s possible to replicate this collaboration in remote settings without dedicated tech tools like informal talent development platforms.

Why it’s hard to implement informal training without technology

‍While we’ve established that informal training is a better way for learners to upskill than formal learning, it’s not the easiest method to implement. These are some of the factors that make it a challenge.

Providing scalability

Informal training doesn’t lend itself naturally to being scaled. How do you recreate environments that offer opportunities to have an impromptu watercooler conversation? How do you scale a candid discussion with a mentor or getting advice from an SME?

These moments, though impactful, are hard to capture and replicate across the business. Scheduling regular collaboration sessions or events is time-consuming. Finding the right co-workers to organically pair together for one-on-one development can be a slow and time consuming process. Making experts or leaders available to chat casually with colleagues or employees is difficult.

Measuring impact

Measuring the impact of informal development activities also presents a challenge. Quantifying what was learned, how the participant felt about the interaction/learning, and how they relate it all back to the business is a hassle to do manually.

Ensuring equity

When intentionally creating informal development opportunities to connect, we also have to consider individual employees’ access to networks, knowledge, and leadership. Race, gender, disability, and other factors can impact who you know and, subsequently, what opportunities are within reach. Bias and nepotism favor those with a proximity to power and ignore those far from it. 

Ten Thousand Coffees squashes implementation  challenges and provides effective informal talent development solutions

Ten Thousand Coffees’ (10KC) platform is the easy way to effectively and equitably administer informal development programs in your workplace. Our guided programs enable people to develop the skills they need to unlock the next step in their career, for example:

  • Mentorship, which features automated mentor-mentee matching and months-long curriculums to build networks and develop employee skills.
  • Onboarding program, which creates positive experiences that will have employees committed to your organization from Day One.
  • Connectivity program, which creates informal interactions that build culture and a sense of belonging among employees.

10KC’s programs are scalable, measurable, and guaranteed to address your business needs. We’ve built off-the-shelf programs for you to implement immediately, and we also provide the flexibility to create customized ones that meet your unique business needs.

And 10KC relies completely on digital collaboration, using whatever video conferencing your organization prefers. Invitations to meet and nudges are sent via email or messages. 

Our Smart Match algorithm automatically pairs employees based on their goals and career interests. It also removes the bias of manually pairing people together. Mentors and mentees meet at a cadence chosen by the program administrator and for a period of time best suited to their needs.

All you have to do is launch the program, and our platform takes care of the rest, from reminders, meeting structures, conversation guides, and a dashboard that displays feedback and survey results.

Examples of how development programs can improve your organization

Informal development has the power to address a variety of business priorities, including:

  • Increase BIPOC representation in leadership: Enable your BIPOC employees to be the leaders of tomorrow by teaching the leadership skills they need to overcome common challenges and advocate for themselves through our BIPOC Leadership program.
  • Engage interns and build their skills: Give Early Talent the help they need to progress in their careers. With the support of a Smart Matched early-career buddy, help them understand and learn the skills they need to succeed in any profession.
  • Bridge the gender gap in senior positions: Sponsor female and nonbinary employees by helping them build the leadership skills they need to succeed. Support them in overcoming imposter syndrome and navigating the transition to leadership in our Women in Leadership program.
  • Complement your formal training initiatives: Continue learning after the end of your formal training program. Let your teams build upon and cement what they learned by practicing these skills one-on-one with their peers.

Hybrid work has made informal opportunities more scarce — bring them back with 10KC.

Don’t compromise on the success of your business or your people — let informal development experiences get you the results you need to grow your business, while investing in its future.

Learn more about our solutions and get in touch with our team of experts to start your journey into informal development today.

Webinar

Invest in Informal Training to Strengthen Your Business and Bolster Hybrid Work

When it comes to workplace development, we often turn to our colleagues, mentors, or someone in our network for advice. How many times have you reached out to a peer in another organization to help you learn a new tool or had coffee with a mentor to pick their brain a new skill or role?

These opportunities to develop are known as informal learning experiences. There is no structured curriculum or classroom. Someone in need of knowledge is seeking it out from a trusted peer or someone from their networks.

Despite the fact that this type of learning is widely practiced and more effective than formal approaches, informal learning experiences are often missing from the corporate budget, and informal development tools are left completely out of the talent stack.

Creating time and programming dedicated to informal learning is proving even more important as many employers are relying on hybrid work models. Nowadays, team members are getting brief exposure to in-person collaboration opportunities and employee connections are still expected to occur organically, which doesn’t suit the new world of work. 

Planned opportunities to collaborate informally with colleagues and leaders — especially in hybrid settings — can be the accelerant needed to upskill employees and support their career development.

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between informal and formal training, and how the 10KC platform can create structured informal development experiences that will connect and upskill the employees in your hybrid organization.

What’s the difference between formal and informal training?

Informal training programs rely on discussion, e-learning, workshops, and mentoring to not only teach participants the skills they need, but to practice them too.

Examples of this in an office include watching your colleague navigate a new software, talking to your supervisor about the next steps for getting a promotion or observing how other departments tackle an everyday challenge. These are all activities that are done in person but can also be successfully replicated in a virtual environment with the right tools.

Formal training programs, on the other hand, use structured courses, modules, and testing that guide participants through a curriculum. Examples of this include LinkedIn Learning certifications, onboarding programs, or annual compliance training.

Why informal training wins the learning race

The benefits of informal learning are superior to those of a formal approach. Informal learning wins out as a better way to develop employees because it emphasizes social learning and allows employees’ to seek out support for their unique needs, rather than having human resources or L&D departments assume their needs.

According to the 70:20:10 Institute, 70% of all learning comes from “experience, experiment and reflection, and 20% derives from working with others.” Only 10% of learning comes from “formal interventions and planned learning solutions.”

That means that no matter how many formal training sessions your company offers, employees are still likely to learn more from friends and informal experiences than from expensive training and formal education programs.

How informal training keeps hybrid workplaces connected

Informal training relies on a few key principles: collaboration, creativity, and curiosity. Inherent in all of these is learning and tackling challenges alongside other people.

Sometimes, we can get so bogged down in our roles that we forget there are loads of people around us to help out. The same goes for when we want to learn something new. Maybe our first inclination is to turn to a certificate program or training course. But there are so many experts already in the office who can help develop a new skill.

Other types of informal training, like workshops or discussions, also put the emphasis on bringing groups of people together to dissect a topic or learn a new approach to problem solving. It challenges people to put their heads together rather than approach something alone.

When companies rely on informal training to upskill employees and strengthen teams, collaboration is natural. As organizations explore and define what their hybrid work arrangement looks like, informal training proves a flexible solution.

Some companies are choosing to meet in person yearly or biannually for retreats where sessions or workshops can be conducted. Others are splitting time equally for employees between home and office, where in-person collaboration happens often. Even for those who spend no time in the office, it’s possible to replicate this collaboration in remote settings without dedicated tech tools like informal talent development platforms.

Why it’s hard to implement informal training without technology

‍While we’ve established that informal training is a better way for learners to upskill than formal learning, it’s not the easiest method to implement. These are some of the factors that make it a challenge.

Providing scalability

Informal training doesn’t lend itself naturally to being scaled. How do you recreate environments that offer opportunities to have an impromptu watercooler conversation? How do you scale a candid discussion with a mentor or getting advice from an SME?

These moments, though impactful, are hard to capture and replicate across the business. Scheduling regular collaboration sessions or events is time-consuming. Finding the right co-workers to organically pair together for one-on-one development can be a slow and time consuming process. Making experts or leaders available to chat casually with colleagues or employees is difficult.

Measuring impact

Measuring the impact of informal development activities also presents a challenge. Quantifying what was learned, how the participant felt about the interaction/learning, and how they relate it all back to the business is a hassle to do manually.

Ensuring equity

When intentionally creating informal development opportunities to connect, we also have to consider individual employees’ access to networks, knowledge, and leadership. Race, gender, disability, and other factors can impact who you know and, subsequently, what opportunities are within reach. Bias and nepotism favor those with a proximity to power and ignore those far from it. 

Ten Thousand Coffees squashes implementation  challenges and provides effective informal talent development solutions

Ten Thousand Coffees’ (10KC) platform is the easy way to effectively and equitably administer informal development programs in your workplace. Our guided programs enable people to develop the skills they need to unlock the next step in their career, for example:

  • Mentorship, which features automated mentor-mentee matching and months-long curriculums to build networks and develop employee skills.
  • Onboarding program, which creates positive experiences that will have employees committed to your organization from Day One.
  • Connectivity program, which creates informal interactions that build culture and a sense of belonging among employees.

10KC’s programs are scalable, measurable, and guaranteed to address your business needs. We’ve built off-the-shelf programs for you to implement immediately, and we also provide the flexibility to create customized ones that meet your unique business needs.

And 10KC relies completely on digital collaboration, using whatever video conferencing your organization prefers. Invitations to meet and nudges are sent via email or messages. 

Our Smart Match algorithm automatically pairs employees based on their goals and career interests. It also removes the bias of manually pairing people together. Mentors and mentees meet at a cadence chosen by the program administrator and for a period of time best suited to their needs.

All you have to do is launch the program, and our platform takes care of the rest, from reminders, meeting structures, conversation guides, and a dashboard that displays feedback and survey results.

Examples of how development programs can improve your organization

Informal development has the power to address a variety of business priorities, including:

  • Increase BIPOC representation in leadership: Enable your BIPOC employees to be the leaders of tomorrow by teaching the leadership skills they need to overcome common challenges and advocate for themselves through our BIPOC Leadership program.
  • Engage interns and build their skills: Give Early Talent the help they need to progress in their careers. With the support of a Smart Matched early-career buddy, help them understand and learn the skills they need to succeed in any profession.
  • Bridge the gender gap in senior positions: Sponsor female and nonbinary employees by helping them build the leadership skills they need to succeed. Support them in overcoming imposter syndrome and navigating the transition to leadership in our Women in Leadership program.
  • Complement your formal training initiatives: Continue learning after the end of your formal training program. Let your teams build upon and cement what they learned by practicing these skills one-on-one with their peers.

Hybrid work has made informal opportunities more scarce — bring them back with 10KC.

Don’t compromise on the success of your business or your people — let informal development experiences get you the results you need to grow your business, while investing in its future.

Learn more about our solutions and get in touch with our team of experts to start your journey into informal development today.

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