Companies now understand the importance of informal training. It’s the best way of making humans learn. It’s because of the natural way of learning when you pick up skills yourself.
There are, however, many advantages and disadvantages of such a training process:
- No tests: The foremost benefit of informal learning is that adults don’t like giving exams. When they undertake informal training, they are relieved from that burden. They are exhausted because of giving exams to prove their worth.
- No need for an instructor: Informal training does not require a company’s dependence on an instructor, but still, some training materials are needed that the employees can consult. The employees can be given access to virtual resources that they can browse through to deepen their knowledge. The login credentials of this digital library can be provided to all employees to consult at any time required. This is where the problem with informal learning lies. Since the course is not structured, the employees don’t have any learning path handed over to them. They can go overboard with their learning and waste the company’s hours. Hence a company still needs to monitor such activities as formal learning.
- It’s spontaneous: Informal learning is useful when someone needs information just in time. Sometimes, a new employee can waste time looking for something that needs simple software instruction. It is a common problem for companies where databases are maintained for storing soft copies of files. Employees must know how to query through such databases to get a file. Also, although a senior employee might not feel particularly happy with sharing his information with a fresher, things have changed because cameras are installed in companies to monitor such behavior.
Internships are excellent ways of making employees learn. The employees enjoy them because they are paired with mentors who coach them on a one-to-one basis. The best part is that informal training pays them, unlike formal training, where employees are not paid. These sessions don’t have a structure; hence employees can learn at an individual rate without adhering to a curriculum. Informal learning ensures that employees are supported by other personnel and even the organization when they are trying to learn.
Although informal learning does not contain any exams, one of its cons is that the employees can’t be tested for what they have learned.
Hence the companies must include testing modules so that employees are at least aware of the compliance rules. The companies can ensure that employees don’t flout such rules intentionally or unintentionally, incurring losses with evaluation.
The best part about compliance training is that the content is static in the formal training unless the company plans to change it all the time. But informal education can always be updated, which is beneficial for the company.
It’s simpler to add materials to informal training rather than formal training.
If a mentor is using social media to impart knowledge to the mentee, social media can be updated. Also, a mentor is always more aware of the industry’s current trends rather than some static material.
When informal training is imparted, the juniors can ask questions on the spot. It’s because they are working with software, and in the event of facing any trouble, they can immediately question the supervisor. This is not possible in the case of classroom training, where so many employees are present, so everyone can’t be attended to during the class itself.
But informal training also has another problem, i.e. it’s not all standardized. A mentor does not use a script to impart such training. Sometimes, the mentor is busy, due to which an intern is given a brief lecture. The mentor’s training also depends on his state of mind. So, all the interns get different knowledge about the company’s work procedures, and problems can ensue because they don’t adhere to compliance rules. The mentor might miss out on critical work procedures which have to be performed in a certain way to ensure compliance. Informal training is an excellent process for the mentors to answer the queries of mentees whose problems are not the same as others. Also, the understanding levels of employees are different, and they can’t always be clubbed together without making the fast learners bored. When a formal training session takes place after an informal event, learners are already equipped with a lot of knowledge.
What’s the best solution for a company: formal or informal training
Companies need to recognize the importance of informal training. The senior employees have developed some work-related specializations which they can only share. Such events in the handling of which they have developed a competency need to be integrated into the training material, but it’s not always possible.
Hence Soufflearning is an important technique for companies where employees are paired with mentors during their first few workdays. The new employees don’t have to wait for an event to happen to learn what’s to be done after making a big mistake. Learning through experience is not always the best possible solution, especially when mistakes are costly.