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Why Your Business Needs to Invest in Informal Training

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Kerri Moore
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
April 20, 2021

When it comes to our own development, we tend to look to our friends, peers, 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 a coffee with a mentor to pick their brain about developing a new skill?

Despite this widely known phenomenon, informal learning experiences such as those described are often missing from the corporate budget, and informal development tools are left out of the talent stack completely.

Why? They can be hard to scale, even harder to measure, and therefore difficult to get approval on from your boss.

Fortunately, there’s now a way to offer the informal training your employees want AND have the ability to scale, measure, and prove ROI. Take a look.

The secrets of informal training

Informal vs. formal learning opportunities

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

Some examples of this would be learning how to speak a new language, practising how to drive, or watching a Ted Talk. Social learning is integral to all life, and the natural way animals of all species learn.

This type of learning process is so effective because of how we retain information - our brains are wired in such a way that makes social interactions, particularly one-on-one exchanges, lodge into our memory.

The problem? Working out how to measure the amount of information learned and retained, and scaling to your entire organization.

Formal training programs, on the other hand, use structured courses, modules, and testing that guide participants through the curriculum. Think LinkedIn Learning courses, onboarding programs from your LMS, or the annual compliance training your company forces you to complete.

The problem here, however, is that the information taught during formal learning programs are rarely retained or practised, and they can be...dull.

Where development and learning happens

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

That means that no matter how many formal training sessions we’re made to take part in, we will still learn more from our friends and informal experiences than we will from those endless training and development programs; it’s just how we retain information the best.

In fact, 90% of development opportunities and 85% of career opportunities happen informally. Using our network to develop our skills or find a new position within our organization just comes second nature to us.

Why informal development hasn't taken off… yet


As has been commented on through this article, informal training doesn't exactly lend itself to being scaled. How do you easily scale a watercooler conversation? A candid discussion with a mentor? Advice from an SME?

Though impactful, these moments are hard to capture and replicate across the business. Plus, there are only so many people within a company, so finding the right co-workers to pair together for one-on-one development is an extremely time consuming, manual process.


Another drawback that’s been previously mentioned - measuring the impact of informal learning activities is a doozy. Quantifying what was learnt, how the participant felt about the teachings, the amount of information that was retained, and how they relate back to the business is almost impossible to do manually, and a tedious task at that.

For instance, if you’re looking at a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training course, how can you accurately ensure anti-racist ideologies have been understood, remembered, and actioned by participants? What has changed within your organization since taking part in the course 1 year ago? Was the course even impactful?


After that smooth segway, we can now talk about equity of information and exposure to those who will impact your career.

The reality is that people who look like each other tend to get preferential treatment, and are more able to get access to those informal experiences that carry the biggest weight for their career development.

One way to combat this, though, is through mentorship, which is proving crucial in actioning change.

“Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level by 9% to 24% (compared to -2% to 18% with other diversity initiatives). The same study found that mentoring programs also dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.” - Forbes.

In addition to inequitable treatment, underrepresented groups have the weight of history on their shoulders and the fear of reaching out. Their confidence may not be as high as the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, straight, cis-gendered, male employee, and this is cant be overlooked.

Proving ROI

With all of these issues rolled together, I’m sure you can see how difficult it would be to prove ROI and be granted approval of funds from the accounting Gods.

Without solid metrics and the ability to scale to the organization at large, you bet your bottom dollar your business is not going to risk investing in informal corporate training, no matter what the research says.

10KC Development Programs: creating structured informal programming for mentorship & growth

Drum roll please…

Here to answer all your prayers are 10KC Development programs. No, really.

What are Development Programs?

Development Programs are guided learning programs that enable people to collaboratively develop the skills they need to unlock the next step in their career.

Scaleable, measurable, equitable, and guaranteed to address your business needs, we’ve built off-the-shelf programs for you to use as you please, or offer the ability to create new ones with our team.  

Our Smart Match algorithm automatically pairs employees based on their goals and career interests, and initiates them into a mentoring program. Mentors and mentees meet at a cadence chosen by you, and for a period of time best suited to your needs.

All you have to do is press play and we take care of the rest - from reminders, meeting structures, conversation guides, and results, we’ve got you covered!

Why we created them

We like to stay connected with our customers, and after listening to them talk about their struggles with manual mentoring programs, equitable matching, and career development, we knew we had to step in.

Networking and mentorship are at our core, so creating scalable, guided, one-on-one programs that enable people to work together to grow their careers seemed like a no-brainer.

Now, our clients can sit back and let us do all the hard work, while we enable informal, self-guided development within their teams.

How Development Programs can impact your business

  • Increase BIPOC representation in leadership - Enable your BIPOC employees to be the leaders of tomorrow. Develop the leadership skills they need by learning how to overcome common challenges and advocate for themselves through our BIPOC Leadership program.
  • Engage interns & 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, let them understand and learn the skills they need to succeed in any profession.
  • Bridge the gender gap in senior positions - Sponsor womxn employees by helping them build the leadership skills they need to succeed. Support them in overcoming imposter syndrome and navigate the transition to leadership in our Women in Leadership program.
  • Complement your formal training initiatives - Continue learning way past the end of your formal training program. Let your teams build upon and cement what they learned by practising these skills one-on-one with their peers.

Final thoughts

So there you have it.

Finally, the informal development that we all naturally gravitate towards has been repackaged for the corporate world. Don’t compromise on the success of your business or your people - let self-directed learning & informal development get you the results you need to grow your business today, while investing in the future of it.

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

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