4 Secrets Of Successful Informal Learning Initiative

4 Secrets Of Successful Informal Learning Initiative
Summary: Gartner has estimated that a massive 90% of social collaboration initiatives fail. Find out what you need to make sure yours isn't one of them!

What Are The Secrets Of Successful Informal Learning Initiative?

In the pursuit of more efficient and effective training methods, many learning managers are turning to social learning technologies to get a better return on their investment. In a survey [1] by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, 82% of respondents said that their organization had implemented an internal social network of some kind. With informal learning making up around 90% of all work-based learning, this is only logical.

Creating a more collaborative learning environment is a good first step towards better training results, but it’s not a simple switch that you can flick on. Tapping into that huge vein of informal learning takes a lot of work and sadly, many learning managers underestimate the effort involved.

Gartner has estimated [2] that a massive 90% of social collaboration initiatives fail due to the so-called 'provide-and-pray' approach – the false idea that a new initiative doesn’t need extensive internal promotion and marketing. According to Jacques Bughin of McKinsey, if a social network is to be a success, 30-40% of staff should be using it on a daily basis. If you don’t secure that buy-in, your social learning initiative will gradually wither and you won’t get the results you’d hoped for. As with so much in learning and development, learner engagement is the fuel that keeps your informal learning initiative running.

1. An Engagement Strategy

Informal learning can lead to a huge repository of organizational knowledge, and an exciting and varied learning program that helps learners go further in their careers. To get there, you need to have a clear engagement strategy to ensure that learners participate in the first instance.

Use reward and recognition to give them an incentive to share their knowledge. A gamified platform gives you a world of new ways to make the learning experience more fun and more addictive. If your LMS has plenty of customization options, use them to build a relevant and meaningful online space that makes sense to your learners and reinforces the common values in the organization. It’s also important to make the platform as easy to engage with as possible. That means ensuring it can be accessed on all devices, including mobile.

2. An Open Community

Informal learning works so well because it aligns with the modern learner’s need for autonomy. Your learners want an open platform that they can explore and use to discover new things. You want them to contribute and share their knowledge and ideas.

It can be tricky to balance your learners’ need for autonomy, and the needs of your organization. To achieve the right mix, you need to give the learners a sense of ownership. Instead of prescribing a rigid company-sanctioned curriculum, create open-access discussion groups and make sure your learners can find them easily.

You can support this further with game mechanics, awarding points, and badges to the top contributors. Not only will this give you a fun and relevant knowledge resource, it will also let you identify who the real experts are in any given topic.

3. A Dedicated Admin Team

Because of its nature, an informal learning initiative has a lot of moving parts. You need to make sure that every member of your Learning and Development team is on board with the initiative’s aims, and understands their role in achieving them.

If you can get the managers excited about the possibilities of informal learning, they can become extensions of your admin team, engaging their own teams, and highlighting any valuable user-generated content.

When any new initiative is introduced, the organizational culture needs to adapt to accommodate it. This necessitates changes in behavior that cascade from the highest levels, downward. With all the managers playing their own small role, this sets a positive example for everyone else.

4. Recognition From The CEO

Engaging all your managers works in a similar way. The only difference is that you need to go a little further up the chain. Getting the CEO on board has a huge effect on engagement. I’ve seen the impact first hand with Growth Engineering’s own clients. One CEO shares a short video on the platform every month, and this regular feature has become a huge driver for traffic.

Reinforcing the message of the learning campaign doesn’t need to be complicated either. The above CEO doesn’t spend time sharing figures and stipulating targets. He merely says 'thank you' for all the hard work everyone in the company does on a daily basis.

The important thing is that these regular updates from the top legitimize the platform in everyone’s eyes, and improve the chances of learner buy-in.


A social learning platform won’t save your organization all by itself. Real success relies on the people behind the initiative. If you want to a return on investment, social features let you get the most out of your intellectual capital. With passion, dedication and an open learning culture, you can finally harness and capture all the power of informal learning and make use of your learners’ hidden knowledge.

The benefits of leveraging informal learning are enormous, but to reap them, you need to make sure that your campaign is engaging for the learners. Once they are convinced of the platform’s worth and begin using it regularly, you might just achieve stunning results in places you hadn’t even expected.



  1. Transforming the business through social tools.
  2. Gartner Says the Vast Majority of Social Collaboration Initiatives Fail Due to Lack of Purpose.
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