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Formalized Informal Learning: A New Architecture for Corporate Learning is needed

All organizations rely on skills and competencies to survive. Today there is an increasingly important need for deep specialization among all employees, and the resulting trend toward collaborative, informal training and learning strategies. Driven by the adoption of new technologies, a younger workforce and the need to share information more quickly, informal learning has now become a critical strategy for corporate HR and business leaders. 

There is a lot of buzz out there currently – however many companies are still in pilot and orientation status when it comes to the question: how can we leverage social media in the HR area for learning and talent development. 
Together with Prof. Arming Trost – also an ex SAP colleague and passionate like me for learning & talent-management – I recently published a book with several articles on People Development 2.0. It deals with the next generation of Learning, Talentdevelopment and Knowledge Exchange – driven by social media, GenY, and the new emerging war for talents. We try to give inspiration and clearity with the viewpoints & 1st experiences from academics, analysts and different companies. 

There is only one english article (rest is in german 🙂 – which i would like to share with the SAP Community network: It is from Josh Bersin, the “go to” source for learning and HR decision makers seeking product and market data, insight on trends and expert advice on enterprise learning and talent management. (a interesting sidenote: Josh worked at Sybase in his earlier career).

Please find here a link to the article: Formalized Informal Learning: A New Architecture for Corporate Learning 

In my own experience though I have seen it much more easy to push social media and informal learning standalone and not connected/ integrated to formal learning. Like the SAP Education Community or diverse SAP internal plattforms from SAPtube to our Employee Network incl. Wikis, Social Networks, Forums etc. However I would love to see more  leaders from HR & LoBs push the “formalized informal” direction Josh describes. It makes sense, although initally it sounds a bit paradox. (At SAP Education we are working on such integrated models and hope to release some soon.)

What are your opinions, experiences, ideas towards “formalized informal learning”? 

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  • Thomas

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve read a fair bit by Bersin before, but not seen this piece.

    I am definitely seeing informal learning shooting up the agenda, both that people are realizing that it happens and impacts hugely and also that people are encouraging it. I think SAP has a great opportunity to use its software to aid informal learning, particularly learning from others in the organization.

    As to whether you can formalize it, it’s a good question. Bersin seems to argue that if you do, then you make it more business effective. I think it needs a good balance between top-down and bottom-up.

    • thanks for the replies.
      I think both can be done – and like you said the balance is important. I have seen 3 approaches how to approach informal learning with social media:
      1: Embed social media structured in formal learning (having own learning objectives) in a blended 2.0 approach – like using forums for discussions of exercises, wikis for a post-training FAQ sharing or videosharing for prework

      2: Wrap social media around learning objects/ events in your learnign infrastructure like through rating, comments etc. so experiences, opinions can be shared – again formalized – but more in a unstructured way.

      3: Support informal learning stand-alone – but give some frame and guidance (not only a tool): e.g. in podcasting you can provide a directory, templates, examples, a guide to produce podcasts, and a service for those who dont want to create podcasts by their own.
      OR for communities you can provide next to the infrastructure moderators/ facilitators and consulting / training to set up comunities successful.

  • At Saudia – the flag airlines of Saudi Arabia, currently we’re working on strategies to deploy Talent Management components to full extent. As a Lead of Talent Functions, at Airlines’ SAP CoE, I’m encouraging my colleagues to formalize the informal learning using the social media; my suggestions to them were/are to share the tips, we discuss internally, with wider community by using different forums including SCN; such knowledge sharing effort, at one side, helps many others and also help the one sharing his ideas by getting fruitful comments.

    As I’ve experienced it by myself, I totally agree with the idea of formalizing the informal learning. Thanks for sharing the article 🙂