Too Busy to Learn?
I’ve increasingly seen reports about how everyone is ‘too busy’ now.
With emails, meetings and the endless ping of notifications at our fingertips, our attention spans have been decimated and our working hours blurred over the last 10 years. It’s hard for us to stop working, even France has had to introduce laws to protect workers from this constant connection to work.
This trend can be seen rolling into the L&D world, reflected in us being ‘too busy’ to learn. But this makes no sense to me. We’re learning all the time. Learning isn’t something that is done separately, completed over there in the LMS, after the work day has ended or, before the work day has started for that matter. When we’re in work, learning is happening all the time; developing projects, participating in meetings, responding to people, making decisions. This is all learning. The problem is, not enough organizations give credit for the (often vast amount of) on-the-job learning their employees are doing.
Credit is given for learning that occurs during an apprenticeship, work experience or an internship. But workplace learning doesn’t stop there, so why do the rewards and recognition? I don’t think a week goes by at work where I don’t learn something new, whether it be knowledge about technology or experiencing how to deal with a new situation (or even a situation I’ve dealt with before!)
I, like many, am improving my skill set on a regular basis. But even I don’t give it the acknowledgement it deserves. We so easily take it for granted. As technology increases the pace, combined with the fear of missing out it creates, it is easy to feel like we’re too busy to complete all our workload, let alone make time for our own professional development. But with careers, as well as the world around us, seemingly in a constant state of flux, it is vital to reflect on our roles and keep our sights on our own development. And even if that’s not your bag, you still owe it to yourself to dedicate time to the areas you want to learn and improve. It’s important for both us as individuals, and the organizations we work in, to stay relevant.
I have wondered if it is a workplace culture issue. Whether learning is always welcomed and given credit or if training is viewed as a need to “get better”. Many of us I’m sure will have experienced workplaces where it can be less positive to be openly learning all the time, or it’s frowned upon to not know the answer. However, there is plentiful research that demonstrates organizations will develop much better problem-solvers and thinkers if they encourage employees to say they don’t know and to openly learn through the workplace. And as a bonus benefit, employees who grow in their organization, grow with their organization, leading to better staff retention. Win – Win.
So, how do we support people to grow when they don’t feel they have the time?
Over the past year, within L&D, there’s been more focus on “resources not courses” which goes some way to manage this time deficiency. Despite offering more options in the content available – be it bite-sized videos or articles – and where – on your phone while travelling into work or over lunch – this still doesn’t go quite far enough. This still assumes that all learning is knowledge gathering through consuming, rather than practical and IRL engagement.
At Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs), we’ve been exploring this idea of harnessing learning outside of content and traditional courses. As part of our Learning Pool Platform development, we spent months interviewing and collating user research and feedback on professional development processes, including annual reviews, focus on learning, as well as how people learn. It became clear that, with us feeling time poor, a way to track and get credit for ALL learning, no matter where it takes place would aid individuals with their professional development. So we curated and mapped a list of learning activities that include these normal work based activities, alongside the usual content suspects.
We want to make it easier for people to learn, reflect and grow in their careers, so we also use prompts to get people to reflect on their learning after a learning experience, helping to cement the learning and bring its relevance into the flow of work.
With our new feature set coming out over the next month, we’re looking to help organizations credit this learning, empower individuals to plan and track this type of learning and overall let learning be part of our day-to-day, rather than when we have time. When really, aren’t we too busy NOT to learn?
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