Social learning is certainly a hot topic these days, with organizations rushing to incorporate these tools into their learning environments. But how much are companies willing to spend on informal learning?
As of today – not much. Our recent study showed that 30 percent of US companies spent money on informal learning tools or services in 2010. The figure was highest among large businesses, 42% of which spent money on informal learning during the year. Among industries, a greater number of technology companies and business services/consulting firms spent money on these tools.
In dollar figures, spending is minimal. Across all US companies, spending averaged $6,463 for informal learning tools and services. Small companies spent just more than $5,600 on average, whereas large businesses spent approximately three times that amount, or $16,409, during the year. Although spending is fairly low today, we expect these figures to grow considerably in the coming years as companies focus on building their internal learning capabilities.
The current focus on social and informal learning is somewhat akin to the mad rush to elearning ten years ago. At that point in time (around 2000), organizations rushed toward online instruction to replace classroom training. We learned over the years that elearning plays a role, but it is really only one channel – and successful programs blend online training with a variety of other approaches to drive learning success.
The same holds true for social learning. Today's L&D organizations must look at all approaches to learning as complementary and interconnected. Individuals are learning all the time, and we must reengineer our L&D strategies to create a continuous learning environment comprised of formal and informal components. In 2011, this trend will accelerate – and will force all L&D professionals to rethink their internal skills, to continue to revamp their tools and technology, and to build what we call a “learning architecture” that makes continuous learning a regular part of all learning solutions.
For more information on what social learning tools companies are purchasing, and examples of how companies are successfully using these tools in their learning environments, read Corporate Learning Factbook 2011 and High-Impact Learning Practices: The Guide to Modernizing Your Corporate Training Strategy through Social and Informal Learning.