Digital technology has drastically changed the way we learn and consume content. We gravitate towards solutions that are quick and easy, and as a result, informal options – social and on-demand learning – account for the bulk of workers’ development.

The most advanced L&D teams are embracing the trend towards informal, collaborative and social. According to the latest Bersin Corporate Learning Factbook, the best L&D organizations deliver significantly more on-demand resources like articles, videos and books, and up to 20% fewer hours via formal training (ILT, vILT, e-learning).

The general lack of insight into informal learning activities has many L&D leaders asking “How do I know employees are spending time on the right things?”

“We have to start trusting the learner. They know what they need and when they need it, and they’re going to find it,” suggested Jason Hathaway, Director, Content & Learning Solutions at CrossKnowledge.

But truly measuring the value of informal learning can be tricky. At Degreed, we believe in the bigger picture and recommend optimizing for utility and outcomes by asking ”Is the learning people are doing helping them become better at their jobs?”

How can you get an accurate measurement of how informal learning is working when results are not instant and much of the learning people do is happening outside of your company’s LMS?

Let’s say, for example, a salesperson spends lots of time watching product videos and reading about selling techniques. Certain tools allow you to capture data on the use of learning resources, but what you, as the manager or learning leader don’t know is if they are applying those ideas in practice.

So you look to their behavior and results. Are they setting more appointments? Are they closing deals faster? Are they closing bigger deals? Are their customers more satisfied? This is data you might be able to find in CRMs, ERP systems – maybe even in the talent management systems. But the one place you will definitely be able to see results (or not)? Observation.

True learning program success means observable behavior change. It’s a different way to think about ROI, but it’s a KPI’s that really matters.

Additionally, you can focus on the experiences you’re facilitating. “You can’t control what people do, but you can control the environment you provide them. Give learners easy access the best resources, including other peers, ” suggested Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed.

Most workplace learning infrastructure doesn’t really work for today’s workers, partly because the current systems are built primarily for structured, formal training. But the key to empowering your learners and increasing engagement is recognizing, facilitating and measuring what’s happening in-between those formal learning settings – all of the informal learning that is happening whether it be reading an article, a conversation with a mentor or peer, attending an event, or taking a course.

Ready to start measuring your informal learning experiences? Create your Degreed profile today!

The average person leaves university or college in their early 20’s and retires in their mid 60’s. For those of you like me that aren’t math wizards, that’s about 45 years where most of your learning happens in a professional setting, i.e. while you’re on the job.  And most of that on-the-job learning happens outside of training classes, in the job-related information you consume and tasks you complete each day.

That’s a huge amount of informal learning over the course of a career. While the lack of formality and classroom hours sound great, there’s a problem. Typically, the valuable time you’re spending growing your skill sets isn’t being captured.

Think about it. Almost every day you are reading articles, watching videos, searching online to find an answer. But where are you tracking that time spent or what knowledge you gained? My guess is it’s not being recorded anywhere.

At the organizational level, very little data, if any, is captured on what employees are learning in the course of doing their jobs. Regularly, measurement ends when the course or training program is over, and the details that were captured are minimal – typically only a record that you’ve “completed” the learning.

“This lack of data represents an enormous missed opportunity to increase an organization’s human capital, by tailoring learning resources and initiatives to the specific topics people don’t understand well enough,” said Lev Kaye, Founder and CEO of CredSpark.

Worse, this lack of data on informal learning carries a huge risk for the business.  Organizations can operate impaired, or even close down as a result of bad decisions or investments stemming from knowledge gaps.  In certain industries, if an employee doesn’t understand a critical technology or a regulation, there may be legal, financial, and market implications.  “It’s not just that people don’t know–it’s that they don’t know they don’t know,” added Kaye.

It’s crucial that both the employee and the employer knows which skills, strengths and weaknesses are present in the organization.

The solution is to start assessing and capturing metrics around informal learning.


“Informal learning by definition demands informal assessment that’s nothing like formal tests for certification, licensure, or hiring,” commented Kaye.  “Rather, informal learning assessment means short, highly-targeted knowledge checks that are used first and foremost to engage people then quickly check their knowledge of these topics.”

It’s important to note that when talking about informal learning, assessments are not meant to be an evaluative tool but another method of engagement to reinforce the learning that’s taking place. These knowledge checks are of highest value to the individual, not her manager or business, because the best learning and growth is driven by individual initiative.

The findings from assessments will provide the learner specific opportunities where they can increase their skill sets, and improved insights into the learning happening and identifiable skill gaps for the organization.

To begin gathering informal learning data and using it to reduce the risk of critical knowledge gaps, visit


Training is a core function of many organizations, as employees need to be taught a few standard things to help them effectively work within a company, and best perform their role. But how many organizations put the learner first  when thinking about what needs to be taught?

This is the main differentiator between training and learning.

Historically, training is very business centric versus learner centric. We are all familiar with the transactional model of training: attend a lecture or class, and take a test. It’s easy to assume that because this style of training is common and widely used, it’s successful. Don’t fix something that’s not broken, right?

Wrong. In a recent presentation at Puget Sound, Degreed’s CLO Kelly Palmer shared some findings that suggest we might want to rethink our current methods. “Traditional training really hasn’t worked,” said Palmer. “$160 billion dollars a year is spent on training but 80% of what is taught is forgotten within 30 days. Even more astonishing is less than 15% of that learning is applied on the job.”

With less than 15% of trainees applying their learning to their positions, perhaps it’s time we re-evaluate.

Big shifts occur when we put the focus on learning and the individual instead of the old model of formal training and getting a “completed” mark in the LMS. Digital technology gives us instant access to learning, anytime, anywhere. Even if we think about our own personal habits, the internal LMS or formal training classroom is likely not the first place you look for an answer.

According to Degreed research, when people need to learn something new, around 47% search the Internet and 43% browse specific resources. But just 28% search their employers’ learning systems and only 21% rely on their L&D or HR departments. This tells us that employees go beyond what L&D is providing, and take matters into their own hands to find the learning they want in their time of need.

This is not to say that formal training isn’t important, just that the investments and priorities need to be rebalanced to include many individual-focused learning opportunities. “What I’ve learned over time is that it’s not so much the classroom training experience that employees still ask for,” said Palmer. “When together, that’s where employees get to network with peers, collaborate and actually interact with other people from the company. I think in-person training still has a huge part to play, especially when you’re trying to encourage peer-to-peer knowledge transfer.”

The best learning organizations are focused on learner needs and finding a balance between formal training, and individual, learner-driven opportunities that create a thriving learning culture.

To learn how you can better meet the needs of your learner, check out Degreed’s How The Workforce Learns Report.