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One of the most crucial functions in any organization is the Human Resources.
The HR function drives the organization, its culture, future growth possibilities and is also the first point of contact for prospective employees for the organization’s brand value.
It is interesting that HR teams witness an average 22 percent cost savings when they move to automated and digital solutions for process-jobs. There are other numbers which prove that an app backed HR function is much smoother, with transparent employee interactions.
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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.  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: 
“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.
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.