Think about the two or three most meaningful learning experiences of your career. What did you learn? Where did you learn these lessons or skills, and from whom? How did you come to realize that these would be among the most important learning experiences of your professional life?
Chances are high that your top workplace education events did not take place in formal classrooms or eLearning course modules; rather, it happened through informal corporate learning.
In study after study, corporate education experts have found that between 70 to 90 percent of all workplace learning happens informally — from knowledge sharing and mentorship to casual break room chats. Moreover, in an ongoing informal survey of thousands of participants worldwide, the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies consistently finds that respondents value informal workplace learning experiences far more than they do corporate training and eLearning, with 87 percent identifying social knowledge sharing among team members to be “essential” and only 37 percent perceiving formal company training to be similarly vital.
Put simply, we learn what we want to learn, and we learn best from our peers in the course of our daily experiences at work.
Corporate Learning Is a Major Investment: Make It Pay Off
U.S. companies spent upwards of $70 billion on corporate learning in 2013. That translates to about $1200 per employee per year on average. The learning management system (LMS) software market is now worth over $2 billion annually and continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of HR software, indicating the continued growth of eLearning and mobile learning. External low- or no-cost alternatives such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) like Coursera, edX, Udemy and iTunesU are rapidly gaining widespread popularity as well.
Meanwhile, social learning is on the rise, with companies spending 39 percent more on knowledge sharing tools in 2013 than the year before. Workplace learning is big business, and these numbers convey the importance most organizations attach to it.
Consequently, though corporate learning expenditures vary significantly by the size of a company and the delivery model, workplace education is a significant investment for most organizations. Business leaders want to be sure the company is getting the best return on its investment in that area. They want to see learning that results in happy, empowered employees who regularly apply their knowledge and skills to their work.
Empowered employees lead to increased productivity, improved morale, lower turnover, and ultimately a boost to the company’s bottom line. Based on what we know about which kinds of learning experiences workers value most, it’s clear why an ever-greater percentage of companies’ employee education budgets are being dedicated to tools that facilitate informal social learning in the workplace.
To learn more, check out our white paper, “Social Learning and the Future of Work.” It explores how social learning can empower and engage your employees while allowing them to learn in a way they prefer.