Most of what we call “training” at work consists of formal classroom presentations, workshops, or videos for which we stop working and focus on the training. But most of learning we do at work occurs informally, through interactions and experiences while we’re doing our jobs.
Think about your day and everything you’ve learned so far. This is valuable experience that deserves to be seen as an important tool in employee development. This video offers 21 different kinds of informal learning that we engage in every day. Take a look and see how much crucial learning you do outside the classroom.
1. Online searches
Whenever we need some quick information, most of us turn to the internet nestled conveniently in our palms or waiting helpfully on our desktops. We get the info we need and continue with our day.
2. Lunchtime gatherings
Informal meetings in the lunchroom, around the water cooler, or between meetings are great venues for sharing experiences and asking for help on challenges.
3. Professional conferences
Professional organizations hold regular meetings and annual conferences. More and more of these events are offered online so it’s easy to attend. They offer a terrific way to get input and insights from experts in your industry.
4. Trying new things
Ever tried something new at work just to see what would happen? Experimentation is one of the best ways to learn. If you can corral some colleagues to work with you, you could innovate entirely new processes.
Apprentices learn as they work. They get help from mentors and experienced colleagues who are also learning from the experience. Apprentices can bring fresh ideas just because they’re new to the industry and don’t make the assumptions we may take for granted.
Meeting new people in your company or outside of it helps you understand different perspectives. This is an especially great opportunity to ask questions about how people interact with your company or department. What they say could surprise you.
7. Online documentation
When you need quick instructions for operating equipment or software or following company processes, online documents can offer a convenient reference. If your company has a wiki or resource site, get familiar with its contents.
8. Social networking
With many teams working remotely, social networking gives you a chance to consult colleagues who are geographically distant (or even in the next office). Social platforms let you have casual conversations and even connect with experts outside your company.
In this electronic world, don’t overlook the old-fashioned manual. They often include visual graphs and diagrams that are hard to read online.
10. Job shadowing
Most of us have learned one job or another by simply following an experienced colleague around and watching what they do. This is a time-tested way to train new people, and it works even better if you apply some structure with clear competencies and progress checks.
11. Informal coaching
Getting a quick coaching session from a manager or colleague on a specific task can help you learn new skills or extend current skills in a new way.
12. Help desk
Sometimes, you can call a friend when you need help. If it’s a piece of software you’re tackling, the help desk provided by your own company or the software developer can help you figure out what to do or troubleshoot a problem so you’ll know for the next time.
13. Cross training
Some companies ask employees to trade jobs so people can understand life from their teammates’ point of view and find ways to work together better. Cross training helps you grow while making it easier for companies to fill temporary labor gaps.
14. Peer coaching
You don’t have to find an expert for great coaching. Your peers can help keep you accountable for your own learning and performance goals. They can also help you talk through problems just by listening and asking questions. And you can return the favor for them.
15. Case studies
Case studies let you learn from the past. Reviewing projects from your own company or others can give you new ideas about handling current projects or tackling challenges.
16. Problem solving
Some of the best learning we do comes from solving our own problems. If we can collaborate with teammates, we can learn from each other at the same time and the whole company gets smarter.
17. Post mortem
Disasters will happen, but these are terrific learning opportunities. If you and your team can objectively retrace the event and figure out ways to prevent a repetition, you’ll all have a better way to proceed.
18. Interdepartmental meeting
Like cross-training, meeting regularly with people outside your department will broaden your understanding of the business and the priorities of other groups. You’ll find ways to operate more efficiently and stamp out misunderstanding.
19. Professional reading
Most professions have trade magazines or online sites that discuss current issues and offer how-to articles. Find some you like and stay current with your profession. You may even see trends coming so you can ride the wave.
20. Stretch assignments
You extend your skills by taking on jobs for which you’re not quite qualified and figuring out how to get it done. It can be frustrating to take on more than you’re quite qualified for, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
21. Informal feedback
You can get small bits of feedback from anyone at any time. Pay attention to these comments. You don’t have to follow all the advice, but you’ll get a better understanding of how your work is perceived and you might find some ways to make a stronger impact.
This list does not cover even half of the ways you can learn throughout your day. What would you add to it?