We learn up to 90% of what we need to know at work through informal learning, but we don’t spend a lot of training time and money focused on this informal process. Without a strong tradition of training through work experience, it’s hard for companies to know how to guide and manage informal learning. Pract.us solves this problem by giving teams a tool to build and manage informal learning tracks.
It’s pretty well accepted today that companies focus most of their training efforts and dollars on formal, instructor-led courses that cost millions to develop, deliver, and maintain and which represent only 10% of what employees actually learn. Even with video courses and mobile content becoming available, most companies haven’t delivered much training online and those that do are essentially transferring the classroom to the desktop. It’s also estimated that employees only apply 10-15% of what they learn in classes to their actual jobs.
Education equals formal courses.
So why do we continue to focus on the formal course as our main training tool? Performance consultant Jay Cross notes “that corporations invest in formal learning because it’s the one means they know – and know how to handle.”
Since we were 5 years old, education has been packaged into structured experiences that we followed with little variability. Even when we began to choose areas of study in college, we still followed a curriculum developed by others without real regard for our needs or goals. And so we’ve learned well that real education comes to us fully formed by “experts” and packaged into courses.
Informal learning gets overlooked.
Although studies have shown that most adults spend a great deal of time pursuing education through informal means and at our own initiative (Livingstone, D. W. (2001). Adults’ informal learning: Definitions, finds, gaps, and future research: New approaches for lifelong learning in Blog/Research), we almost never talk about this as education or training. We certainly don’t credit it with the same cache as educator-designed, instructor-led courses. And we transfer this attitude to work.
So here we are in the middle of a work day, learning new facts, gaining new experiences, figuring out new solutions, asking questions of our colleagues and bosses and then presuming that it’s only when we sit down in a special training classroom – completely separated from our work environment – that we learn how to do our jobs.
It’s time to change our approach.
At Pract.us, we believe that since informal learning generates up to 90% of working know-how, it’s time to shed our well-ingrained attitudes about what learning is and about the value of classroom learning versus experiential learning. We believe that experiential learning is the most common and most effective activity for helping employees adopt skills, work together, improve performance and innovate.
But managing informal learning isn’t easy.
But managers wanting to make the most of work experience for employee development cannot lean on decades of study and common practice to help design a program. And if you look closely at what your employees do, you’ll see that they cover a wide range of activities in a day. They work with several, maybe dozens of other people who are more or less experienced than they are. They’re sometimes working and sometimes goofing off. They have different interests and goals, so while one may jump excitedly into an accounting project, another may gravitate more toward project management. They’re almost never doing the same thing at the same time every day.
So while you can see that they’re learning and changing a little bit every day, you can’t see how you could manage that growth or direct it in any way.
That’s why Pract.us exists.
Team members have lists of skills, grouped into cards, that they work on as they can.We help you guide your team’s informal learning in a standardized, consistent way. You simply create lists of skills that you know employees need, put those into Pract.us and collect them together into “cards” which employees can enroll in and follow. Employees help design their own training plan by selecting the cards that most closely align to their career goals. You help them understand which skills are crucial to their job now by assigning them cards directly.
The skills let employees know what new behaviors they need to learn, who can help them, and what resources they can use to learn. As they go through a day, they take opportunities to learn and practice their skills, working with mentors for help. The mentors not only help others learn, but also make sure they follow standards and best practices.
Pract.us tracks everything for you so you can see at a glance what your employees are working on, how they’re progressing, who’s helping them and which mentors have certified their work by signing them off. You can see when to step in with help and when to acknowledge learners and mentors for their efforts.
With Pract.us, you validate the 90% of learning that employees do everyday in interactions with colleagues, customers, and vendors. You recognize the value of their non-classroom, self-directed learning and help them focus their efforts on activities that will grow their careers and improve performance. The approach is not to sit in a classroom for 8 hours and come out transformed into a new employee (which doesn’t happen anyway); it’s to gently shape the work of every day – that 90% of learning – in a direction that makes a real difference.