Informal Learning and the Silent Trainer #1

Sections of this topic

    If I asked you who is responsible for training the employees in your organization, I would expect your response to include the training or the human resource department in one form or another. If I continued to question you on how that training is conducted, I would expect to hear the names of different classes or training modules and a description of delivery methods that would include classroom training, web-based training, seminars, webinars, or perhaps even on-the job training. You may even include required skills, experience or certifications that persons responsible for training must possess such as knowledge of adult learning theory, facilitation skills, and knowledge of instructional design.

    I would of course, expect your answer to include the formal learning systems used within your organization. However, if you are failing to recognize the informal learning structures as powerful teachers in your organization, you are making a mistake.

    Consider this scenario. Suzie is a new employee and has just completed the new employee training program. She has moved from her desk in the training area to her permanent cubicle located next to the cubicle of Bob, a tenured employee. Suzie feels confident that she can handle her new role and eagerly gets started. Within the first day on the job, she discovers that she still needs clarification on a few things. Does she call the training manager? Does she consider calling her supervisor? Or is it just easier to ask Bob. He is right there and he has been with the company for a while. Suzie decides to ask Bob. Bob responds with something like this, “Well, we’re supposed to do it like this, but…”

    In the above scenario, Suzie would have no reason at this point in her tenure to assume a tenured employee would provide her with anything but an acceptable answer to her questions. She could reasonably assume that If he wasn’t doing his job correctly, he wouldn’t still be working there.

    Can’t she?

    What do you think? Your comments are always encouraged.

    Look for more on informal structures of learning in organizations in my next post.


    For more resources, See the Human Resources library.

    Sheri Mazurek is a training and human resource professional with over 16 years of management experience, and is skilled in all areas of employee management and human resource functions, with a specialty in learning and development. She is currently employed as the Human Resource Manager at EmployeeScreenIQ, a global leader in pre-employment background screening.