How to Invest in Informal Learning – Part 2

Describe required knowledge and skills

In the first part of the blog on Investing in Informal Learning I suggested that even though the learning is ‘informal’ there needs to be a process to enable it. To start the process, identify the need and then describe the knowledge and skills to be learned.

An example will help illustrate the point. A salesperson becomes aware that a customized report generated from the company’s client database will help their prospecting efforts. They have identified need – the ability to create custom reports from the client database.

The first step in the ‘informal learning’ process is to describe the need to create custom reports in terms of the knowledge and skill required. This requires finding the person(s) or ‘the subject matter expert’ (SME), that can create the custom reports. The goal is to get that ability and its related knowledge and skills out of the SMEs head and described in a useable format.  The investment required is to develop the SMEs’ ability to document their subject expertise and provide a model of the desired performance.

An individual SME or group of SMEs organizes and describes the ability to create a custom sales report.

In many scenarios this structured description of the ability is enough to enable the employee to create their own custom sales report.

Create Job Aids for Informal Learning

The second investment in the informal learning process is teaching employees to use the description of the ability to create a job aid.  The job aid can be one of 6 basic formats:

  • Step-by-Step or How to Guide
  • Worksheet
  • Look-up Table
  • Decision Table
  • Flowchart
  • Checklist

The ability to create job aids allows those employees with important knowledge and skills (these are the subject matter experts) to efficiently pass it on to fellow employees.

Deliver On-The-Job Training (OJT)

The third investment that can be made in the informal learning process is enhancing the ability of SMEs to deliver effective training on-the-job.

Use the structured ability description to guide the OJT session.

 Informal Learning Structured On the Job Training Diagram

The SMEs who are delivering the OJT will have been trained to follow a 3 step OJT model.

Three Step On the Job Training Informal Learning summary

Summary of Informal Learning

The effectiveness of informal learning is enhanced by three simple investments to empower employees to:

  • Prepare a structured description of knowledge and skill
  • Develop a job aid for that knowledge and skill
  • Teach that knowledge and skill on the job

These 3 abilities can be core requirements for all employees who developed expertise in their jobs.


Jim Sweezie
VP Research and Product Development