Formal and Informal Learning

It is important that managers and staff understand that formal training is only one way of addressing gaps in skills or knowledge. Individuals also learn informally, experientially, on the job, with and from other people.  In fact, there is growing support within the Human Resources profession and from a wide variety of organizations for a model of staff development known as the 70:20:10 model of development. It argues that experience accounts for 70% of a person’s work performance; networking with other people accounts for 20%; and formal training accounts for 10%.  When you apply it to your own situation, the model posits that formal training accounts for very little of what you know, and that most of what you know about your job and your responsibilities comes from what you’ve learned on the job.  While the numbers are not important, the model is a good reminder that formal training is only one avenue for staff development. 

The underlying message of the 70:20:10 model is not to diminish the importance of formal training, but to advocate for the enhancement of formal training through other learning activities (see below for some examples).  The best way to develop yourself in a particular area is to coordinate formal training with the opportunity to practice on the job, while also engaging in self-study activities like reading and self-assessments, and availing yourself of coaching, mentoring and/or peer support.     

Some examples of informal learning activities include:

  • Special projects and assignments designed to challenge you and stretch your abilities
  • Job shadowing, rotations and secondments that invite learning by observing and experiencing new responsibilities
  • One-on-one coaching and mentoring
  • Peer learning/ Communities of practice
  • Personal study projects that combine reading, consulting with others and coming to some conclusions; these projects typically result in the preparation of a paper or presentation
  • Reading and/or viewing materials that expand your understanding of library and/or workplace issues, eg. TED talks, books, articles or websites on leadership, teamwork, creativity and innovation, motivation, conflict resolution, etc.   
  • Contributions to issues-based online discussions  and/or face-to-face conversations with staff from other libraries
  • Off-site visits to other libraries or other relevant service providers.

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