Why Employees Demand L&D Resources, But Don't Make the Time to Learn
According to LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Learning & Development Report, the number one challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning: The reason employees say that they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don't have the time. Yet, despite these findings, there is growing demand by employees for more learning opportunities. A survey conducted last year by the tech company BMC found that the massive digital disruption we are experiencing is forcing societies and businesses to create new learning environments to train their labor forces employees want to be digital change agents and are looking to acquire new skills but are asking for employers to offer more training opportunities. It's clear that there is a discrepancy; employees want more training opportunities from employers, but they claim they don't have the time to invest.
Let's dig deeper into this conundrum.
Reasons Why Employees Think They Don't Have the Time to Learn
There is no denying that everyone is busy. We live in a society where the demand on our time is rapidly increasing. It's no wonder that we feel like we don't have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we want to. This alone contributes to our perception of not having time to dedicate to learning. Here are a few other factors:
1. There is a misconception that training is time-consuming, requiring employees to block off hours or even days for training activities.
Let's be honest, when the word 'training' is said in a room full of employees, you usually hear a few groans and see a few eye rolls. In workplaces today, people still feel that training programs are time-consuming, uninspiring, un-motivating and irrelevant; stale PowerPoints, endless PDFs, cheesy videos - I mean, just thinking about the ways organizations have handled training in the past puts me to sleep. But the way training is delivered today has evolved and good instructional designers take into consideration the needs of today's learners; learning must be accessible, delivered in small nuggets and be highly relevant at the time of need.
2. Current learning environments don't foster innovation, passion or encourage learning, so employees are simply not interested. Not having time is therefore used as an excuse to avoid such training environments.
Unless you work in an industry that is highly regulated (think oil and gas or motor vehicle manufacturing), training should incorporate experiential and social factors that allow employees to have the freedom to innovate and be creative. I'm not suggesting that training should only focus on these social elements, as there are still required skillsets that employees need to be able to demonstrate to be successful on-the-job, but there is an opportunity (often missed by organizations) to blend approaches. By simply offering employees choice and allowing them to engage in 'out-of-the-box' training solutions, you'll notice that, suddenly, they have time to participate.
3. The massive amount of information that an individual consumes on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Also referred to as information overload, we're inundated with content everywhere we turn.
On the one hand, it is now easier than ever to access information. When an employee has a question or feels like they lack the knowledge or skills to complete a task, their first instinct is to turn to the Internet; Google has become a useful resource, as has YouTube because information is accessible and available on demand! Consider this for a moment... why would anyone spend an hour in a training session learning about something that they can learn on their own by watching a quick YouTube tutorial? In the workplace, learning activities need to add value and they need to provide knowledge to employees about something that goes beyond what they can learn on their own. Otherwise, they won't make time to participate.
For more information about tackling employee information overload, check out this great Training Journal article.
4. The true cost of multitasking is the impact it has on employees' perception that they are too busy.
The term multitasking is actually a misnomer. People can't really do more than one task at a time. Instead we switch tasks, which can be costly. Research shows that it takes more time to get tasks completed if you switch between them than if you do them one at a time. Each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, but if you do a lot of switching in a day it can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity - that's a lot! So, the employee that's on a teleconference call and is writing up their quarterly report, checking their email and texting a friend all at the same time may think that they are saving time, but in reality, they're actually wasting a lot of time. No wonder people think they are too busy.
5. Employees are constantly being interrupted, meaning a task that usually takes 60 minutes takes double that time.
Interruptions aren't necessarily all bad. Some people report that some interruptions can be beneficial. The downside is the stress that comes from switching topics so rapidly throughout the workday. According to a study by Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, on average, people switched activities due to an interruption every three minutes and five seconds. When was the last time you were working, and you saw an email come through about a completely different project and you took a few minutes to respond? Ultimately, this negatively impacts your productivity. When employees are busy simply trying to complete their work, can they fall into the trap of thinking that training is just another interruption in their day?
Solutions - Engaging Employees Who Think They Don't Have Time for Learning
How do we combat the factors that contribute to someone thinking they are too busy for training? Employers can:
- Ensure the training program is relevant - employees need to be able to answer the question "what's in it for me?"
- Give enough time and space for employees to develop themselves - encourage employees to schedule time each day or week to dedicate to training
- Encourage a blended approach to learning - mix both formal and informal strategies, and incorporate experiential and social approaches
- Ensure employees can easily access training resources - ensure your LMS interface is user-friendly
- Encourage feedback and involve employees in the design of your training program
- Consider implementing microlearning in your organization - deliver content to learners in short and focused learning segments
- Limit distractions - dedicate specific blocks of time for each of the tasks you need to complete each day, including learning
- Schedule time each day or week dedicated to training or learning - consider committing to reading one article or blog post about your industry every day
- Identify where training would be most useful/valuable and share this with their employer
Let's be honest, no one is too busy to invest in their future. That being said, this article discussed several factors that contribute to the perception that employees don't have enough time to dedicate to training. When employees are asking employers for more training/learning opportunities, but declining to participate in what is being offered, how we deliver and implement the information/content we think employees need to know needs to evolve.
A number of suggestions about how to go about this were provided above, but we would love to discuss this further. Contact us today to find out more.
Shauna graduated from the University of Toronto in 2002 with a Master of Arts in English before moving home to Calgary to work in the fast-paced, detail-oriented oil and gas industry. Now certified as a technical writer, Shauna is comfortable writing in a variety of styles, and for a variety of audiences.