Herding Cats – Capturing informal and social learning
May 13, 2013 3 Comments
Social and Informal Learning in taking off in leaps and bounds,
with significant number of courses and programs available for free via various MOOC’s or through providers of free online education the profile of this kind of learning has increased dramatically. Add into this workplace learning, communities of practice, on demand e-learning, and corporate social media, just to name a few and you soon realise that Learning is happening all over the place. And I have to say I think that is a fantastic thing, anything which encourages people to learn or makes it easier for them to learn is good for everyone.
However, with all of this learning going on, how do we as organisations know what it is our staff know and how can we be comfortable that they are actually capable of doing the things they have been learning and is it important that we know.
Let me answer the second half of that question first, Yes, it is important that organisations know what their staff are learning, what their skills and capabilities are, what they are competent and not competent to do. Why? because without that knowledge organisations cannot best plan for the future. Without this information decisions about workforce needs and capability cannot be accurately made, nor can we properly succession plan for the organisations future. It is hard to know who are going to be the next senior leaders with your organisation without knowing the knowledge, skills and capabilities.
The first half of the question if harder to answer however, how do organisations capture what it is that their staff know, what it is they have learnt over a year or six months, how does an organisation verify that learning and how can it be integrated into the work of the organisation and where the organisation is ‘providing’ the opportunities to learn, say through communities of practice etc, how do they determine the return on investment they are getting.
Even the simple act of capturing the information about staff learning can be challenging, do you try and capture everything, do you have a system where staff upload what they think is relevant information about their learning activities, does the organisation try and vet the information that is uploaded or captured to ensure that the learning activity was undertaken, or that if possible the person was deemed competent, or do you only accept formal qualifications as evidence of knowledge. I guess for me it depends on the purposes for which you are looking to capture the information. If it is being captured primarily so that staff have a record of their learning activities, both formal, non-formal and informal, which they can utilise to show industry currency or professional development, then I think casting a wide net, without too much checking of competence etc is fine. If however the organisation is using the information as one string to its workforce planning or succession planning bow, or as looking to recognise formally the skills people have gained from informal sources, then I think the capture needs to be much stricter, perhaps even with competency based assessment backing up the learning from these informal avenues.
If you are in organisational learning I would love to hear what you think or what you do in terms of capturing what your staff learn informally.