Supporting informal learning: A learning technology pilot to tag and locate knowledgeable people in a global organisation

Anita Flanagan

Google Ireland

Informal learning, such as co-worker training and mentoring is widely recognized as a highly effective way of learning and is directly linked to innovation and satisfaction in the  workplace (Zeytinoglu, I. and Cooke, G. (2009), Verhaest and Omey, (2010)). However in a large global company it is not always easy to enable and provide such informal learning opportunities, and even finding the people who are best placed to provide the support and mentoring can be difficult. Thus there often exists an ‘informal learning’ gap in many organisations. According to Lamont (2006) and Lohman (2009) however, this requirement to locate experts and support informal learning is essential for overcoming barriers to creating a high-performance workplace.
This research investigated whether the use of an informal tagging tool would improve the overall learning experience of employees, and provide just-in-time informal learning for employees when they need it.  Employees were provided with a ‘tagging’ tool, that offered the following features:

  • Ability to tag themselves with their skills
  • Ability to tag/confirm skills their colleagues were proficient in
  • Decide whether they were available for question or mentoring for each of their skills
  • Option to provide free text to qualify or expand each of their skills
  • A comprehensive search across all employees tagged

This paper reports the preliminary results of a trial using this application. Some of the benefits identified were increased networking and information sharing among employees, particularly within defined teams or groups of workers. Global teams used this tool as a means of mapping each others skills, and consequently to support informal networking and learning. Other specific uses that emerged included finding new instructors to teach classes, as well as identifying potential candidates for open roles.
The presentation discusses the findings and leasons learned as well as opportunities for data analysis on the data collected.
Lamont, J (2006). Finding experts–explicit and implicit.  KM World; Jun2006, Vol. 15 Issue 6, p10-24, 3p
Lohman, M.C. (2009). A Survey of Factors Influencing the Engagement of Information Technology Professionals in Information Learning Acitivies, Information Technology, Learning & Performance Journal; Spring2009, Vol. 25 Issue 1, p43-53
Zeytinoglu, I and Cooke, B. (2009). On-the-Job Training in Canada: Associations with Information Technology, Innovation and Competition.  Journal of Industrial Relations; Feb2009, Vol. 51 Issue 1, p95-113, 18p
Verhaest, D. and Omey, E. (2010). “The Measurement and Determinants of Skill Acquisition in Young Workers’ First Job”. Economic & Industrial Democracy; Feb2010, Vol. 31 Issue 1, p116-149, 34p, 3 Charts

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