What are drivers for informal learning?

Eva Schürmann*, Simon Beausaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose - The topic of informal learning at work has received increasing attention in the past years. The purpose of this study is to explore in which informal learning activities employees engage and what are the drivers for informal learning.

Design/methodology/approach - Semi-structured interviews were taken from ten human resources (HR) and ten marketing employees working at a German machinery manufacturer.

Findings - Employees mostly learn informally by talking or collaborating with others, searching information online, feedback giving and seeking from colleagues and supervisors and reading. Next, it was found that organizational drivers, task and job drivers, personal drivers and formal learning influenced employees' informal learning. Background characteristics on the contrary were not found to influence informal learning. Overall, within these categories, the following drivers had the greatest influence on informal learning: commitment to learning and development, feedback as well as interactions with and support from colleagues and supervisors.

Research limitations/implications - The design of this exploratory qualitative study brings some limitations. Based on the findings, suggestions for future quantitative and intervention studies are done.

Practical implications - The results show how human resources development (HRD) professionals could better support employees' engagement in informal learning and gives an overview of the determinants that could be influenced and in turn have a positive effect on employees' informal learning.

Originality/value - This study is one of the first studies unraveling informal learning as perceived by employees. It develops a comprehensive framework for categorizing drivers for informal learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-154
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Training and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Commitment
  • Learning
  • Drivers
  • Informal
  • Feedback
  • Interactions

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