Informal learning happens all the time at work—and that’s a good thing. Every time an employee searches for a definition of a new word, asks an experienced colleague to explain a process, or watches a video message from an executive, they’re learning.
Informal learning comes in many forms: viewing videos, reading articles, participating in discussions, spending time on social media, coaching, and mentoring sessions. It’s the type of education that every organization benefits from—it’s low-cost, low-stress, and it’s employee-driven.
Enable Learning in the Flow of Work
Informal learning is also why your salespeople love getting together. While scheduled meetings and live video training are common ways to get your reps up to speed, conversations with other salespeople in which they share insights between sessions are where critical knowledge transfer happens.
Salespeople look for ideas in other’s strategies, behaviors, conversations, and analyses. These moments of learning that take place outside of a structured, formal environment are powerful because they happen in the flow of work. Instead of setting aside a specific time to learn, sellers can absorb new information on-the-go, when they need it most.
One of the best ways to encourage informal learning is pairing new employees with seasoned co-workers. This gives the newbies an opportunity to see how business is conducted in your company, without the pressure of tests or assignments. New hires can learn by example and incorporate the practices they see more experienced employees using. This also gives them the confidence they need to do their jobs well.
Another tactic to foster informal learning is by encouraging the use of recorded (vs. live) video. Reps are able to watch and hear top salespeople delivering persuasive sales messaging and product demonstrations—on their own time—and then play back the videos as often as they need to absorb the information fully. They absorb not only the words and concepts, but also the tone of voice, body language, and hand gestures.
Drive Engagement and Collaboration
Sellers need up-to-the minute information to win deals—market conditions, customer insights, competitive intelligence, win / loss stories to name just a few. Pre-pandemic, teams would share these tips from the field in weekly meetings and calls. But plenty of wisdom was also passed on in the break room over a cup of coffee or after work at the bar. Today, it’s much harder to stay connected with peers and share knowledge without these informal connections.
A key to overcoming this challenge is capturing and sharing best practices from subject matter experts and the field. Make it easy for reps to record themselves on video and share whiteboarding techniques, negotiating strategies, and more. This information is essential for sellers—particularly newer hires—to understand so they can be successful during the pandemic and beyond.
There are several ways you can use video to help drive learning engagement and peer-to-peer collaboration on your team. One tactic is to include at least one thought-provoking comment or question when sharing a video. For example, you might say, “I came across this customer complaint the other day and responded by saying: [your solution here]. How would you handle this?”
Your team members may reply with comments such as, “I was on a call last week and got the same complaint. I talked with Abby, and she gave me a great response!” In turn, that team member can “ping” Abby to bring her into the conversation.
Before long, you have a social-media-style thread – a rich, rolling commentary in which people engage with you and each other, sharing insights that will solve a problem. You can also repurpose these highly-engaging, peer-generated videos for formal learning modules.
Measure the Impact
To measure the value of informal learning, employee engagement, and ROI, a first step is to simply poll the reps. Ask them, “Are these videos working for you? Are they something that you’re using often? Have they helped you achieve any wins or increase the dollar value of a sale?”
Step two is to monitor the engagement stats available through your learning platform. Although informal learning can be more engaging than structured learning, reps do the “coursework” on their own without a facilitator or reviewer. Because this is self-motivated learning, it’s important to identify anyone who isn’t watching the videos and/or anyone who isn’t participating in the exercises and quizzes you may assign to help the reps reinforce the content in the videos.
Capture Informal Learning
Capturing and leveraging the learning that’s already occurring in your organization every day is an important way to drive engagement and harness the wisdom of your employees. But successful virtual learning—informal and formal—depends on a technology solution that allows sellers to absorb new information without the benefit of sitting side by side with their co-workers, teammates, and instructors.
Take a look at your learning technology and processes for capturing and distributing informal learning to ensure that this knowledge will reach the learners that need it most—when and where they need it.
Download your copy of The Essential Guide to Virtual Selling for practical tips and advice for succeeding when you can’t be there in person.
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