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Informal Learning

Say it loud, “Grow, Adapt or Die!”

Companies know that if you’re not growing or adapting in some way, they will die.  But that same philosophy applies to you, me, and the people we serve.  If we’re not growing or adapting, our careers will die. 

In a McKinsey & Company paper, “Getting Ready For The Future Of Work”, Bob Kegan of Harvard says that the time it takes for people’s skills to become irrelevant is shrinking. While people used to think that, ‘I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.’ It’s not like that anymore. People will find their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35.

There is no doubt that the lifespan of a skill is shorter than ever before.  When you add the impact of automation and artificial intelligence, the reality becomes clear.  The status quo is not ok.  We must continue to grow and adapt. 

Your job is to promote that understanding to the people you serve so that it becomes ingrained and normal to them.  That is, we must create a culture of learning.

How?  Change how you think and talk about development.  Stop thinking about development as an event, or as formal learning only.  Development is something you should do every week.  To make it easy, start with a small change.  Encourage each person to do one development activity each month.  Just one.  Pick something, plan it, and do it. 

Think informally. 

  • I really need to learn how to create pivot tables – I’m going to watch a 5 min YouTube video on how to do it, then I’m going to try it on that spreadsheet I need, rather than asking someone to do it for me.

  • This upcoming legislation is going to affect us. I’m going to ask Maria, our resident expert, to take 15 minutes to explain it to me.

  • I’ve got an upcoming presentation to the department head. It’s technical stuff, but if I could just craft a story around the data with a little visualization, I know I could get the resources we need approved. I’m going to meet with one of our data analysts to pick his brain about what visualization would work best, watch a TED talk on storytelling, then practice in our weekly team meeting.

Most people don’t think about those things as development activities, but research shows that informal learning is powerful and sticks best because it’s relevant and often applied right away. 

If you can get the people you serve to plan just one development activity each month, document it and put it on their calendar so they will hold themselves accountable, then complete it and add an activity for next month, you will create a habit.  Then they will be growing and adapting each month.

That is how you create a culture of learning!

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How do you store created skill practices for informal learning?

Thank you to everyone who attended the ATD webinar "Create Informal, Competency-Based Learning in Only 1 Day".  (Link to the recorded webinar)

Once you start creating skill practices...is there advice on how to store them for reference?That is, how do you operationalize them? 

The reality is that you can store them in any shared location (networked file server, intranet, SharePoint, Box, etc.).  What’s important is connecting users to them.

Method #1: If people are self-assessing against the competency model and identifying skill gaps for the job they have or the job they want next, this is the perfect time to connect people to skill practices, embedded within their Personalized Learning Plan, so they can download and start using them in one click.  What’s great about this is that you’re leveraging all the intrinsic motivation that someone has when they identify a skill gap.  Now they WANT to get better and they themselves know they need to take action.  You’re giving them an action plan that doesn’t require taking time away from their job – they get to do their work AND build that skill.  In this way, you both communicate availability and operationalize their use.

Method #2: Embed them into the activity to be performed. 

  • Skill practice for building a dashboard in your ERP application – put the link to the skill practice right into the application’s help page, or if you can customize the instructions, embed a link there
  • Skill practice for preparing for a sales presentation – put a link to it on the appropriate page of your Salesforce.com or other Customer Relationship Management application or portal
  • Skill practice for how to perform some process most effectively – if there’s a checklist or set of work instructions on how to do it, embed a link to the skill practice right in the instructions

It’s all about making them available at the point of need.  This is the future of learning.

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