group of four bee keepers collectively learning the trade and safety

Learning That Happens Outside of the Classroom Is Important for Safety

By Madison Hanscom, PhD

As we know in safety, formal training is incredibly important for employees to learn the practices, procedures, values, norms, and behaviors surrounding safe work. This provides the foundational knowledge for employees to do their jobs safely. Another important component to learning safety best practice is less official – it’s referred to as informal learning.

Informal learning happens outside of official instructional efforts like training. Because we only spend a small amount of time in training compared to normal operations on the job, it makes sense that the majority of workplace learning takes place informally (about 80%) (1). This is why it is critical to maintain an environment that supports and facilitates the ability for employees to learn.

How can I create an atmosphere for informal learning at work?

Best practices for creating and sustaining informal learning will vary across different companies and different job roles (e.g., some jobs allow for more learning autonomy than others). Some tips for facilitating this include…

• Hold discussions about safety regularly to discuss problems, successes, and observations
• Provide opportunities for employees to read, study, troubleshoot, or practice during work hours
• Encourage job-related personal development, reflecting on performance and goal setting
• Provide access to learning materials (such as professional safety publications)
• Allow employees platforms to share ideas, ask questions, and learn from one another
• Train leaders to encourage and support their employees’ informal learning behaviors
• Build a climate that values employee-driven learning by positively reinforcing informal learning

It is important to provide top quality training for your employees, but also to consider all of the efforts in place to reinforce learning outside of the classroom. This helps to build a smarter, safer, and more resilient workplace.

For more blogs on organizational learning, please see our Blog Insights.

At Propulo Consulting, we care about the success, health, and wellbeing of your workers. We partner with you to improve the world of work by building a smarter and safer culture. Read Safety & Safety Culture for more information on this topic at Propulo Consulting.


(1) Cerasoli, C. P., Alliger, G. M., Donsbach, J. S., Mathieu, J. E., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Orvis, K. A. (2018). Antecedents and outcomes of informal learning behaviors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 33(2), 203-230.


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