The argument for a holistic view of learning which incorporates formal training, informal learning, knowledge sharing AND Enterprise 2.0
(forgive me the simplicity - this is a rant remember).
If you want someone to be able to do the job you pay them to do, they need to know how to do what they’re doing, or you’re paying out for no reason.
To get more than a return on current skills levels, to improve the skill base, or just to keep up with changes, you need to invest in people. This needs to be via formal training (the what) and informal training (focusing on the how).
Definition of formal training in this instance is directed, structured training, primarily classroom based, where a set curriculum is followed as required by the job function. For instance
- Methodology training ie Prince2, MSP, ITIL
- Principles training ie mentoring, negotiating, facilitating, dealing with difficult people,
- Application/tool based training ie MS office, autoCAD, procurement system
This can be related to learning to drive – you learn to drive a car (methodology), pass your test, (certification), but you only learn to drive by doing it (practice).
According to the Institute for Research on Learning, formal training accounts for only 20 percent of on the job learning (Jay Cross 2006 “The Low-Hanging Fruit Is Tasty”, - or see informal learning, the other 80%). If this is true, understanding the other 80 percent, the practice, and cultivating informal learning to improve this practice in the most effective way, must benefit the workforce.
Cheetham and Chivers also support this, they state that
"…much of the learning required to attain full professional competence actually takes place after the completion of formal training. This conclusion highlights the critical importance of informal learning. However, the results also suggest that different individuals find different kinds of experience formative, and this should caution against being too prescriptive in respect of “best practice” learning methods.”
Cheetham and Chivers 2001
Therefore broadly speaking, professionals learn a degree of what they do from formal training, but the majority of their skills, knowledge and behaviour is learnt informally.
Any investment in the development of capability therefore needs to consider informal learning to a high degree, if what is discovered in formal training is to be translated into practice and improved competence, to gain a return on investment.
Formal training related to relevant situations
As Knowles and others have identified, adults learn most effectively when what they are learning relates to their environment. Training which relates to learners particular experiences is therefore vital if what is learnt is transferred into their work. This can be done by using case studies with direct relevance to the job of the learner – ie using case studies from that company to train Prince2.
Sharing knowledge about how an issue was mitigated or a risk avoided reduces the likelihood of costly mistakes. Sharing experience which was in some way successful helps to improve competence. For instance, knowing that post go-live support can be reduced by 6 days by investing time up front to understand and communicate exactly who will do what in a business process is a valuable experience which, if shared, saves 6 days expenditure and improves the likelihood of change being accepted.
Knowledge sharing is therefore a vital component of learning about a role, and thus, increasing competence. Networks and communities of pratice, both offline and online, can help to share this knowledge.
Blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds, instant messaging, online conferencing, all these tools facilitate collaboration, reflection, sharing, and ultimately, learning, all important for the development of competence and capability required to achieve business objectives.
Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring also is a way of enabling people to share experience and good practice, and to increase competence, and serves to help people develop their skills in the areas they need to develop, when they need to develop it – just in time learning.
Professional Development Networks
Professional development networks, workshops and masterclasses improve practice by enabling individuals in those networks to dictate the content of workshops when they need them, keeping work current and allowing individuals to share experiences and knowledge.
You need both training and development to facilitate learning and to improve competency. You need both formal and informal learning initiatives, which incorporates knowledge sharing activity, to support people in their roles in achieving your business objectives.