To read this content please select one of the options below:

Informal learning in the workplace: evidence on the real value of work‐based learning (WBL)

Michael Eraut (Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex, Lewes, UK)

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




This paper seeks to understand the role of informal learning in the workplace by observation of samples of professional workers.


The research started by shared descriptions of the work being followed before asking about the roles of other people whom they met at work, and then asking about what the observer might have seen on another occasion. This was followed by discussing the nature of the researched person's work with significant others in the workplace.


The most important theoretical finding was that most people did not describe informal learning as learning. The study managed to handle this by talking about learning as a by‐product. Then both working and learning could be talked about at the same time. Most of this learning came from people working together in a range of work activities.

Research limitations/implications

Support and feedback were critically important for confidence, learning, retention and commitment, and the right level of challenge. Factors affecting participants' commitment to work, to colleagues, and to their employers included the quality of their support and feedback, and appreciation of the value of their work.


The paper highlights the importance of giving more attention to who is doing what, and finding opportunities for people to learn naturally by being present in situations where they can be helpful and recognized. If learning is crucial for working, much greater learning occurs.



Eraut, M. (2011), "Informal learning in the workplace: evidence on the real value of work‐based learning (WBL)", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 8-12.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles