Category Archives: Corporate Learning Best Practices

Informal Learning For Startups: Preparing For Internal Social Collaboration

Classroom teaching has been debunked for newer forms of learning and engagement across organizations. Interestingly, startups seem to be the ones driving companies towards such learning. Read about it in detail here.

The Use Of Informal Learning For Startups

Working in any organization involves learning, and at different levels. The most common approach is a presentation and exemplifying, followed by learning and then repetition. However, this technique may not always yield appropriate results. Several startups in today’s business ecosystem have realized that one needs to make a framework in order to get a complete view of a learner’s overall needs.

There is no doubt that L&D plays a very important part in developing successful leaders amongst Millennials across organizations. With increase in competition, companies have started pursuing more efficient as well as effective methodologies of social learning. [1] As per an international survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, 82% respondents declared that they were making use of some form of internal social network. Since informal learning comes to 90% of total work-based learning, this is bound to happen.

Though it is known that internal social networking is highly beneficial to any company, putting together a suitable network is easier said than done. Gartner’s estimate claims that about 90% initiatives for social collaboration fail due to the “provide-and-pray” approach- one which says that any new initiative does not necessarily require massive marketing and internal promotion.

Jacques Bughin at McKinsey states that if internal social networks need to be counted as success stories, at least 30-40% of staff must be utilizing in every day. If that does not happen, then the social learning initiative will gradually fade away and you will not get the expected results.

This is what Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, Senior Vice President at PageUp, a well-known HR software company, said during her answer to L&D professionals’ questions on informal learning methods: [2]

Investment in informal learning is increasing as more and more organizations realize just how ‘sticky’ on-demand micro-content such as online blogs, podcasts, and videos are for engaging employees of all generations. With advancements in mobile learning technology, it’s now much easier for employees to share informal learning content with their peers, sending it viral across the organization. (…) People have always learnt informally, and formal education and training has supplemented that. Enterprises are now just leveraging what is a very natural and intuitive way of increasing their employees’ knowledge and skills.

3 Steps To Develop An Informal Learning Strategy

1. Engagement Strategy

Informal learning helps in attaining a massive amount of organizational knowledge, through a varied and exciting learning program which enables learners to make advancements in their careers. Only a clear engagement strategy can ensure that learners are motivated enough to participate in the very first instance. Rewards and recognition can be a good method to engage them. Make use of a game-based learning platform to create a meaningful program for them. This should be accessible through all devices, even mobiles.

2. On-The-Job Admin Team

It is natural that an elaborate learning module will require several moving parts. Every member of the L&D team should understand the aims of this initiative. If managers can become gung-ho about the new training initiatives, they will certainly become extensions of your own admin team. The organization’s culture of adapting it is what will help you move forward with the initiative.

3. Open Community

One of the major reasons for the success of any informal learning program is its nature of providing autonomy to the user. Though the user is empowered through the Learning Management System, it is also necessary to link needs of the user with those of the organization. When employees participate in open forum discussions, they get a sense of belonging with the company. At the same time, the LMS leads to better engagement levels for employees.

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Informal Learning In The Startup Environment

The changing landscape of business across India has seen the magnificent and unprecedented growth story of startups. And there is no reason why such learning cannot benefit these small organizations as well. In most cases, startups do not have the necessary funds in order to execute a full-fledged L&D program. They also do not possess requisite manpower for the same, which again brings informal training to the fore.

Adaptability And Flexibility

These are two key parameters that employees working at a startup always have to keep in mind. Well, the same goes for the learning program as well, and that’s the beauty of informal training. It has to be constantly adjusted and tweaked as per the needs of the startup. And yes, this is certainly the need of the hour since the startup is constantly evolving. By having a formal structure in place, it will no longer be possible to adjust.

Here is one of the reasons why informal learning programs can be most successful with startups. As mentioned above, learning is most effective when the user becomes autonomous. In other words, self-led learning has the potential for maximum rewards. Try to understand; who is the person who learns the most in the daily working of a startup? Well, you guessed it right – it is the average employee who is possibly engaging with clients on a daily basis. He or she is the person who will be facing the maximum number of doubts, and by being at the seat of the informal training program, he or she will also get the fastest answers. This will naturally lead to greater retention, as the employee will understand how the organization is committed towards his or her welfare.

New Vision For eLearning On A Global Scale

Today technology is advancing at a pace quicker than any one of us could have ever imagined. Eventually, there will come a time when our systems of pedagogy will be unable to handle the impact of global change. For this reason, a new vision needs to be drawn out, and informal learning is certainly a part of the same.

We are currently residing in societies which have the facilities to be able to network, collaborate and coordinate on an international scale. When we look at bringing about innovation to organizations, it becomes increasingly certain that those involved in such endeavours need to come up with a long-term vision on the future of eLearning, according to a universal global standard.

Startups can really help to take the above vision, and here’s why. They are the companies which get into territories that no one else does. They are the ones considered to be the harbingers of change in society. So if they drive forward the new eLearning vision, there is no reason why the world’s organizations will not follow.

 

This article was first published at eLearning Industry.com.

 

References: 

  1. Transforming the business through social tools
  2. Why informal learning is a worthwhile investment

3 Types of Startups Who Need a Learning Culture to Succeed

Service-driven startups like cab hailing apps, e-commerce apps, delivery and logistics enterprises, etc. thrive on very specific yet highly competitive ecosystems.

Most startups work towards the one thing which matters most – Survival. In the crucial early years, startups are consumed by solving critical challenges like getting their product/service off the ground, creating differentiation with consumers, hiring the right team and raising capital. Most times this leaves no bandwidth for anything else and lower order priorities like training usually take a backseat – and, rightly so. Most startups can do without structured learning for a very long time, and instead, driving a culture of ‘figuring it out’ and self-learning can help teams remain cutting-edge and current. However, if you are a particular type of startup, then learning is actually quite critical to the success of your business model.

1.    Startups with large field forces

Startups that depend on a large field force to either sell or deliver their product/service to customers, need them to be knowledgeable and be skilled at selling. But, with large field forces come issues such as high attrition and the need for training their replacements faster. As a startup, balanced on the thin edge of efficient capital consumption and delivering a world-class brand experience to customers, these costs can prove very dear.

Startup founders typically, expect field force managers to teach incoming employees on-the-job or through 1-2 day-long classroom sessions, to equip them with all the knowledge regarding the product/service, its differentiation, processes, and skills related to selling and issue handling. That can be a lot to absorb in such a short time span! However, what startups don’t realize is that the willingness to commit this time to train may differ from manager to manager as may the ability to train, resulting in a lopsided field force where some are trained to deliver better than others. And one of the fastest ways to kill a brand is inconsistent brand experience with customers.

Such startups can benefit enormously from having structured learning and onboarding programs, that incoming field force is mandatorily required to go through in their initial few days. With advancing learning technology, such structured programs are now delivered with ease through mobile devices with micro-learning that is consumed on-the-go. Ultimately, the cost of such a program is offset by the benefits of consistency of brand experience resulting in growth and scale.

2.    Startups who run an ecosystem

Service-driven startups like cab hailing apps, e-commerce apps, delivery and logistics enterprises, etc. thrive on very specific yet highly competitive ecosystems. Features such as one-day delivery, pick-up & drop services, returns, and home trial add enormous pressures on logistics teams in startups. Conversely, the differentiating factor is not always the product/service itself, but the quality of hospitality and customer care provided, which is actually delivered by the ecosystem.

Compared to the previous type of startup, the need for training this ecosystem comes from two fronts – Process and Brand Experience. Ecosystem partners deal with both major stakeholders involved – with the startup (seller) and the customer (buyer). Understanding processes which may include critical aspects like authentication, cash handling, timely delivery and pickup, returns etc. is imperative for ecosystem partners. And every partner of this ecosystem doubles up as a brand ambassador, therefore they need to understand the brand experience they are supposed to deliver.

If such an ecosystem is at the center of a startup’s business model, then founders need to ensure that the ecosystem represents and communicates the brand experience founders have envisaged. This, however, cannot be done quickly and is a long-term process. Startups need to analyze the role of each partner, design training programs accordingly and ensure the same is communicated to them on a regular basis.

3.    Startups with complex product/service offerings

Startups with complex product/service offerings such as technology products, fin-tech or medical tech have a unique requirement. Their offering is typically based on a thorough understanding of the domain and the issues with existing products/services, which can be sometimes fairly complex subject matter. Not only historical context, it is important for such companies to keep abreast of the advances and latest developments in their domain. Sometimes, the requirement can be as simple as knowing new regulations in the industry that affect your product/service.

As such startups grow and hire, whether it is sales and marketing, product development, Operations or HR, translating this context and understanding is important and needs to be done continually. Such startups would benefit from building up a repository of knowledge that is available for reference or learning as needed.

By Kamalika Bhattacharya, CEO & Co-Founder at QuoDeck

This article was first published on BWDisrupt