Want a Strong Learning Culture? Make Time to Learn.

There aren’t ever enough hours in the day to get everything done, and professional development often gets pushed aside on the to-do list. So when you’re creating a learning culture, it’s important to encourage people to take responsibility and make time for development.

Creating a learning culture where people prioritize and make space for learning is vital for your organization’s future. That’s why it’s imperative to develop a good learning culture that shifts learning to a top priority and makes space for learning in the flow of work.

In this post, we’ll discuss how you can support learners by helping them carve out time to learn. And since we’re talking about time, what better movie than “Back to the Future” to help illustrate our examples?

Prioritize learning and development.

When people say they don’t have time, it usually comes down to a question of priorities. Often, we consider other things—like finishing a proposal, hitting a deadline, or closing a sale—to be more important than taking time to learn.

Regardless of our priorities, learning and development often gets pushed to the bottom of the list for two reasons:

  1. The impact of learning is often long-term, and tasks with more immediate impact can feel more urgent.
  2. The impact of learning can be difficult to measure, so it can be difficult to make the case for the importance of learning over activities with more tangible benefits.

When learning isn’t a priority in your organization, employees may lack critical skills and knowledge that impede them from doing their jobs efficiently and effectively. Who knows—maybe if Biff had made a little more time for learning, he’d know how to actually use idioms.

Set a good example.

While learning doesn’t always result in immediate, tangible benefits, it does render significant, long-term benefits—such as more productive people and a more agile organization. But how do we shift people’s mindsets so learning becomes a top priority they ask for right away?

First, prioritization of learning needs to come from the top. People will be more likely to prioritize training and development if they not only see leadership making time to learn, but also have organizational processes that encourage them to learn.

Second, positive stories about training’s impact on an individual level also can help push L&D up people’s priority lists (i.e. testimonials and case studies exist for a reason). If you can show them that taking time for learning and development is worthwhile to others like them, you can help convince them to spend time on it.

Not only do you have the power to make your own future “a good one,” but you also can help others down the path to success by setting a good example. In other words, practice what you preach.

Make time for learning and development.

You also can find ways that make better use of time, so you can fit learning into your day. Many organizations, for instance, are starting to develop microlearning strategies so people can access learning content that’s effective and efficient.

Rather than expecting people to step away from work for long periods of time to learn, offer small bursts of learning—such as quick videos or single quiz questions—that can be delivered on a regular basis. Learners can complete these microlearning episodes via mobile devices when they have a few moments of free time.

As Marty McFly says, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” And the same applies to people completing learning in the everyday flow of work—but only if, and this is a BIG if, they can easily find and access the needed resources. Otherwise, you risk countless opportunities for people to learn in the time of need. For example, as people are working with a particular machine for the first time, it’s important that they can quickly access a resource explaining how to use and operate that machine.


How can learning analytics help people make time to learn?

Learning analytics can help prove the impact of learning, which means you can show people tangible results and encourage them to make learning a priority. Analytics also can be used to identify when people access and use a certain learning activity, which lets you highlight the most effective days and times to promote that learning.


Up Next: We don’t know how and what to learn

People may be motivated to learn and have time to make it happen, but getting started will be difficult if they don’t know how to plan their learning or what they need to learn. In our next post we’ll explore how you can help people “learn how to learn” and focus their training on the skills and competencies they need most.

Back to the Future is used here only to illustrate the examples in this blog post. Watershed is not associated with, sponsored by, or affiliated with Universal Pictures (A Robert Zemeckis Film) and/or Amblin Entertainment.

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