informal learning

Agoria survey confirms strong informal learning culture at Inetum Belgium

6 July 2023

With so much rapid change due to digitizing, technological advances and our new way of working, there is always new knowledge for our employees to attain. Traditional training courses are no longer the only solution to knowledge acquisition. Actually, learning often occurs in the course of your work, while sharing knowledge among colleagues or trying things out for yourself. Our company wants to actively stimulate such informal learning, thereby creating a dynamic environment where employees can continue to grow. Agoria investigated our social learning network and came up with some interesting findings.

Agoria commissioned Professor  Eva Kyndt (Swinburne University of Technology) and Professor  Simon Beausaert (University of Maastricht) to conduct a study on informal learning and readiness to learn among Belgian IT workers. Inetum Belgium participated in the study and was found to have a strong informal learning culture.

So what's informal learning?

Informal learning is spontaneous, unconscious and unstructured. It occurs through observation, experimentation, feedback and interaction with others. The great thing about informal learning is that it happens in everyday situations, without any formal educational or training context. That makes it a better match for individual needs and interests, and encourages a continuous learning process that adapts to changes in the environment. Informal learning in the workflow is increasingly valued, as it is directly relevant to people’s work and enables a more efficient, effective learning process. When learning is integrated with the work context, employees can apply their new knowledge and skills immediately, enhancing collaboration, productivity and creativity. Informal learning and working are closely linked, and form a complementary, mutually beneficial and dynamic process.

We pave relevant roads. You shift gear, you are in the driver’ seat of your career.

You drive your own learning experience

Helen Van Dessel, Senior HR Partner Learning & Development at Inetum Belgium elaborates: “We encourage and value informal learning, as we consider it an important part of our employees’ development. Our organization provides interesting learning paths, while employees themselves set the pace and determine the direction of their learning journey. It's a shared engagement. Besides appreciating the joy of learning for its own sake, we also appreciate the value it adds for individuals, teams and our organization as a whole. The conversion of new knowledge into new behaviors and attitudes is crucial."

David Vandaele, Business Line Manager Business Insights & Applications at Inetum Belgium says: “When recruiting, we pay a lot of attention to candidates’ readiness to learn. We cherish our strong learning culture and are looking for people who are curious and eager to keep on learning. We encourage readiness to learn by offering a diverse and innovative selection of learning options. All employees have a personal development plan, which is regularly discussed with their manager. This plan provides a framework for their development, taking into account their strengths, areas of improvement and ambitions. We look at the steps required to achieve these goals and carry out a fit/gap analysis every year to determine how to guide employees to their desired end point. They take various actions, such as coaching, reading and following formal training, in support of that development."

How we create an engaging learning environment

David continues: “We encourage informal learning through collaboration and knowledge-sharing in informal settings. For example, employees form their own study groups to help each other obtain certificates. We organize regular evening sessions where internal experts can share their knowledge and colleagues learn from each other. The mood at such sessions is generally fun, with pizza as an accompaniment, for example. Communities of employees within the same domain also meet up regularly to exchange experiences and knowledge. This also helps expand the employees’ internal networks, further benefiting their knowledge-sharing.

As you see, informal learning is an integral component of our corporate vision. We facilitate such learning by providing appropriate resources and support, including locations and time. Our success is reflected in the high attendance rates and positive feedback we receive."

Learning is in our organization’s DNA. It's fine to admit you don’t know something, as long as you are willing to learn. That means there is a lot of sharing among colleagues. I believe that’s how you learn the most, as you can come up with new solutions together.

Niels Speleers, Developer

Trust is the key

Helen Van Dessel: To learn something new, you will need to leave your comfort zone, show vulnerability and admit you have not yet fully mastered a certain thing. That can only happen in an atmosphere of trust, which must come from both the employee and the organization. For learning to be possible, a psychological sense of safety is essential. Our employees know it is okay for them to make mistakes during the learning process."

Helen continues, “Managers play a vital role in encouraging learning within an organization; they support learning by creating a culture where it is encouraged and valued. Learning is a continuous process for us, including for our executives, who all participate in our Leadership Excellence Program. This program offers executives the opportunity to grow and learn about various aspects such as people management and finance. They team up with a colleague, so they have a buddy with whom to share similar experiences: connection with others plays a crucial role.”

“When employees see that growth and development are valued, that lowers the learning threshold for them. It works better to be open about areas of improvement instead of pretending you can do it all already. This also fits in with our vision of leadership. We acknowledge that we do not always know everything, but we do have an open attitude, eagerness to learn and willingness to look for solutions and answers together, as a team,” concludes Helen.

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