If you look at the various studies by Hart (2021) on the subject of digital workplace learning, you will notice that a great deal of importance is attributed to social and informal learning. Accordingly, most of our professional learning occurs during our daily activities. The Education Development Center also underlines this point and emphasizes that 70% of our competence enhancement in everyday working life comes from informal learning. This important part of learning is easily forgotten in a digital work environment, as circumstances hardly allow for informal learning. It therefore makes sense to consciously promote it.
In this article, we would like to show you various ways in which you can strengthen informal learning in the digital work environment.
Introduce a virtual coffee kitchen
Harald Schirmer, Manager Digital Transformation & Change in HR at Continental, is convinced that a virtual coffee corner promotes informal learning in the digital environment. A virtual coffee kitchen can be imagined as follows: Recurring appointments with a virtual video room are set. Anyone, regardless of function or position, can participate in this virtual meeting. The important aspect here is that there are no predefined topics of conversation, and the conversations do not have to be about work - in most cases, this happens sooner or later on its own anyway. The conversations thus take place without a moderator, protocol or control - similar to the local coffee kitchen.
New agenda item: "Arriving"
Another possibility, which Schirmer considers very important, is to include the so-called "arrival" in the agenda. Before each meeting, space is deliberately created for socializing and informal exchange. This predefined time slot can consist either of pure socializing before a meeting or of shared virtual breakfasts or lunches - depending on when the respective meetings are scheduled.
Digital job shadowing
Job shadowing is a modern personnel development method and means looking over someone's back on the job. The aim of this method is to get to know the work content of a colleague, to understand it and thus to develop a greater understanding of the professional challenges of the colleagues. Besides, an informal exchange also arises all by itself, as further topics of conversation develop on the basis of the explanations and questions. This method can also be transferred to the digital environment with suitable tools. Which communication tool you choose is less important. The only important thing is that the person under observation can share the screen and explain details via audio.
Regardless of which of these options you consider for your business, they all have one thing in common: they need to be planned, designed, encouraged and guided. Otherwise, your approaches will not last long and the desired effects will not materialize.
Socializing before meetings start enhances informal learning. Photo: Canva - aleksandrdavydovphotos