If you have a small business or a small team, you might not have put a lot of thought into a training program. A customized program might be too expensive. It’s hard to pull your entire team away from work for training. And the free or low-cost online programs don’t always address your needs. But all of these are top-down training approaches, where someone creates content and delivers it to your employees. Maybe it’s time to turn the whole thing on its head by using a hands-on, bottom up learning method, like Guided Informal Learning.
What is Guided Informal Learning?
Guided Informal Learning (GIL) starts with what your employees do everyday. They interact with colleagues and customers, use software and equipment, and learn from their experience. This “informal learning” constitutes the primary way your employees learn their jobs. But studies have shown that if you add some guidance, focus and support to their informal learning, they’ll be able to learn from work experience much more effectively. Thus, GIL is a bottom-up training approach that takes regular informal learning and bolsters it up with structure and guidance.
Why consider Guided Informal Learning for your team?
GIL reframes work experience as training opportunities, which removes the development burden of formal courses and takes advantage of how adults like to learn. Researchers have long known that people learn faster and better from actual work experience if there is structure and purpose associated with their efforts.
For small businesses, GIL provides a way to develop your team without the disadvantages of a traditional, class-based training program.
- You can start training without sophisticated materials, videos and courses. People who know their jobs help others learn.
- Because it’s created and run by the people doing the job, it focuses on exactly the skills most needed.
- Those who deliver the training use the skills every day so it continuously evolves as business needs change.
- It takes place in the work environment so learners have an easier time applying their new skills to their jobs.
- It drives toward behavior change, not course creation or completion, so employees actually use their new skills and the entire team benefits.
- Learning from others is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways for adults to learn new skills.
How does Guided Informal Learning work? A case study
According to a recent article, the owner of Cable Airport, a private aircraft and maintenance facility in California, has used a similar approach with great success. He helped employees develop managerial skills by asking them to handle managerial tasks while he provided support and reviewed their decisions. He encouraged employees to give him feedback on their experiences. Some went on to become terrific managers. Some decided it wasn’t for them. But they all learned the important skill of making decisions in the work environment – a skill they could hardly have learned in the classroom.
What are some disadvantages of Guided Informal Learning?
As a very non-traditional training method, GIL takes time and effort to institute. You, as the manager, have to support it and diligently follow up to make sure employees are taking it seriously. Employees are expected to share knowledge with each other, so if they don’t trust one another, they won’t participate fully.
Managers have to trust their teams as well. You set best practices and standards, but you have to let your employees learn through practice and mistakes. You also have to actively elicit feedback so you can fix problems, but if employees don’t trust you, they won’t share their opinions openly.
However, if you introduce GIL in small ways, support it and encourage employees to take ownership of it, it will grow along with the trust and collaboration among team members. You can also use tools like Pract.us to make your job of guidance and follow-up easier.
What does a Guided Informal Learning program look like?
In the bottom-up approach, you work with employees to figure out what they need to know and create a training list for each of them. You specify the behavior or result they need to work toward. Then you help them find resources, such as manuals to learn from and mentors to work with as they learn. Employees learn their skills while doing their jobs or by working with colleagues.
Once you assign hands-on training lists to your employees, you keep track of what they’re doing so you can offer guidance for the future and acknowledgement of their progress.
As a small business leader, you adapt to every day’s new circumstances, and you find creative solutions to your challenges. You can take the same creative drive to your training program. Perhaps rather than doing the same old thing, it’s time to try a new approach for better results.