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Pilar Orti

VIrtual not Distant


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Learning in Virtual Teams


I'm looking for examples of formal learning being delivered to virtual teams.

If your organisation offers flexible working, does all structured learning still take place face to face? Online?

How are teams making sure that the informal learning that takes place through discussion when we are in the same physical space, is also taking place when people are not working in the office but from home or client locations, etc?

Should managers and team leaders be responsible for creating learning opportunities for their people or should L&D still make sure that learning is taking place?

I'm looking for examples, your opinion, questions, etc. If your answer is too long for a short post, happy to have a quick skype.



Virtual, not Distant

7 Responses

  1. Managers responsible? Yes!

    Hi Pilar,

    One of your questions is whether managers should be responsible for creating learning opportunities. The answer is definitely ‘yes’. And it is the responsibility of L&D to help those managers do it, and make sure they know that doing it is part of their job, not a burdensome ‘extra’.

    You ask whether L&D should make sure that learning is taking place. Actually, they can’t stop learning. It is happening all the time whether L&D does anything or not. People always learn from their activities and environment. That’s what 70:20:10 is all about. What L&D does need to pay attention to is the sorts of things that people are learning informally, and change the environment if the wrong stuff is being learnt.

    Just a couple of thoughts 🙂

    Cheers, Paul

  2. Regarding your question

    Regarding your question around social informal learning in virtual teams – I belong to a virtual team and our company has Yammer (a social network for businesses). We have a Learning group where you can post your Learning related questions or musings. We also create dedicated groups for communities of practice – e.g. For faculties of specific training programmes. It's not always working perfectly yet – e.g. Not all members of the team see the value of it (yet) but it's def a part of the future of learning in my opinion. 

    Regarding your question of whose responsibility it is: the manager has the obligation and the privilege to coach her people and help them learn from day to day activities. L&D has a responsibility there to help managers drive this but I myself am not entirely clear on how to do this in a 70:20:10 way with overwhelmed managers. I currently offer a monthly 1,5 workshop to help them think of ways to help their staff learn, but not sure how to assist them with the 70. 

    Thanks for the topic – eager to read more responses! 



  3. For Eva – how to assist with the 70

    Hi Eva

    Hope it's ok posting this…

    You mentioned that you're unsure how to assist managers with the 70% in 70:20:10. Paul Matthews has a written a book that can help you with that. Informal Learning at Work is available on Kindle and has had some amazing feedback from L&D people in similar situations to yours. Not sure it would be right to include the link here so please send me a message if you need any further details.

    Good luck with your challenge 🙂

  4. Open Conversations – great learning!

    I'm watching this thread closely, not quite ready to reply yet. Thanks!

  5. Brokering Relationships

    Following on from how this discussion is helping me think and following on from Paul's comments, one thing that can be missing from the virtual environment is precisely, learning by talking to others.

    I suppose the manager can facilitate this in their own team, making sure the environment to learn (which includes making mistakes) is supportive and that people are sharing some of what they learn.

    With regards to Eva's question, something that L&D can do I suppose, is to broker those relationships between different managers so that they can continue learning from each other. This also involves staying updated with what's going on so that if, for example, one manager is struggling in a certain area, you can point them towards someone who has successfully tackled it. One of the dangers as more people take advantage of flexible working is that we lose the networks that are so important for our learning – maybe L&D is in a good position to look after this? ??

  6. pilar – L&D as relationship broker

    Hi Pilar

    Good food for thought. I feel I do this to the best of my ability. Keeping a finger on the pulse all the time, as one Learning professional for an org of 250 plus people -including 20 leads – is not that easy.  I then revert back to a classroom workshop (because then at least I have all the leads together in one room once per month) where I try to replicate the informal social learning – ask them to share and talk about what's currently going on for them and use that to build on and facilitate a discussion. But because Classroom is PRECISELY what I don't want to do, and because the social informal sharing in a classroom seems so frivolous in such a fast paced environment where people are overworked – I don't feel this is the solution. 

    On your point of informal learning in virtual teams – I think many people don't think about that as a "thing". I have now decided to discuss the point in my virtual team with my peers. Hoping that if I ask them and make them aware of the fact that virtual teams probably need to find creative ways to learn from one another and that there needs to be an element of intentionality as well –  they'll have ideas and preferences and opinions and we can take it from there.




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Pilar Orti


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