Stodgy cubicles; domineering execs; cowering employees; is your workplace set up for collaboration or a redux of Office Space? It’s official: Informal workspaces are the next big thing in employee satisfaction, especially where L&D is concerned. And while you may be hesitant to employ a decidedly casual tone around the office, it’s worth considering the benefits before pigeon-holing employees into a nearly immovable hierarchy. For our part, we here at eLearning Mind recommend an informal learning culture that encourages collaborations and breaks down the barriers that stand between employees and their full potential. Here’s why:
Informal Culture Encourages Multitasking
When learning is just another item on a to-do list, it can slow down progress. It probably looks something like this: Every six months or so, employees must attend mandatory training as a way to check off compliance requirements or fulfill training hours. Employees are pushed into a room where said training is delivered, taking up the precious resources of time. Once returned to their desks, employees promptly forget whatever they’ve learned, going back to their old habits and techniques again.
When learning is organic and informal, however, it encourages employees to make training and knowledge gain as part of their everyday schedules. Instead of checking training off of a list, they make learning a priority by feeling free to ask questions, brainstorm solutions, and collaborate with colleagues without the boundaries of formal L&D efforts. Employees learn to multitask and are motivated to stay sharp.
Informal Culture Breaks Down Barriers
If the C-suite is studiously ignoring what’s happening downstairs, they could be risking some of the best ideas and improvements. When employees are invited to share and collaborate in a more informal learning within your company culture, it breaks down the hierarchal barriers that can stifle creativity. Unfortunately, too often an employee’s only chance to be heard is during a performance review, in which his main motivation isn’t to improve, but to not get fired.
Whether it’s an informal learning lunch where execs pick the brains of a handful of employees or a virtual “suggestion box” forum online, employees work best when they feel heard. The breaking down of formal learning and once-a-year opportunities naturally makes employees feel more comfortable in sharing with not only each other, but supervisors and execs, too.
Informal Reduces Fear and Increases Creativity
Want your employees to feel like they’re a stakeholder in an organization’s success? Listen up. When informal learning and collaboration is something that happens daily, employees are less fearful of sharing and more confident and creative.
Think about it: If an employee gets just one shot to make a great impression, she might just clam up when asked for her opinions during a meeting. If, however, a culture is created through which employees are constantly asked for ideas and input, it removes the barrier of fear. Gone is the “one shot” rule and instead, informal learning culture fosters an environment of share and share alike–without the fear of missing the only opportunity to make a big impression.
It doesn’t happen overnight: If you’re making the switch from a rigid and informal workplace to something looser and more creative, you may need to take baby steps to create a shift in process and thought. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, however, your informal approach could be rewarded with a more creative, collaborative, and knowledge-hungry workforce.