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Engaging Time-Poor Learners

Bob Little 

October 12, 2016

A key fact of modern life is that – despite the labor-saving benefits of technology and increasing focus on employee well-being – people are busier at work than ever. They have less time for training and traditional learning, such as presentations and seminars, and are looking to on-demand methods as a way forward. 

Mind Tools’ own recent research revealed that 66 percent of people say they are too busy to learn more at work, while 62 percent “often defer learning to focus on delivery issues.”

Work Overload

Author and journalist Oliver Burkeman sums up the situation so many of us find ourselves in: there are “always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up.

“The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed. We’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to ‘do it all.’ but that’s not just really difficult – it’s a mathematical impossibility.”

According to recent research (1) in the UK, 9.9 million working days were lost in 2014/15, due to “work overload.” And, a study by the American Psychological Association revealed that 70 percent of people regularly experience work-based stress.

Further research by insight and technology company CEB revealed that employees waste 11 percent of their time each day on “unproductive” or “scrap learning, costing millions in lost productivity each year.

The Rise of On-Demand Learning

Busy workers are opting less and less for traditional ways to learn. Instead, they are turning to more agile, “on-demand” information resources. Ollie Craddock, Senior Vice President of Commercial Development at Mind Tools, says that “we recognize that, in this hyper-busy world, people just don’t have time to commit to reading a lengthy guide or book.

“That’s why we’ve designed the majority of our materials to be consumed in less than 30 minutes. We also offer information in multiple formats (such as articles, infographics, podcasts, and videos), providing options that suit all learning styles and environments.”

Put the Learner in Control

People are demanding more control over what, when and where they learn. So, as an L&D provider, the key for Mind Tools is to pass control to learners, enabling them to engage with the material as it suits them, but which will still deliver on the overall business objectives of an organization.

Historically, L&D has focused on meeting the requirements of the organization rather than the learner. However, recent research (2) indicates that learners are turning away from this, with some 79 percent of L&D materials now being sourced from “non-official” sources.

“The best performing organizations build a culture of productive learning,” says Craddock. “They personalize and right-size opportunities rather than simply increasing the content available. It’s important to share ownership of the learning environment, and not simply mandate the need to learn.”

Manette Chadwick, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Global Learning at SAP, says, “Productivity rather than participation should be a keyword for today’s L&D professionals and time-poor learners. Keeping that in mind can help you build a healthy corporate learning culture, where learning is encouraged to happen anytime, anywhere and anyhow.”

UK HSE Labour Force Survey, Oct 2015

CEB 2014

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2 comments on “Engaging Time-Poor Learners”:

  1. Rebel wrote:

    You wrote:
    “According to recent research (1) in the UK, 9.9 million working days were lost in 2014/15, due to “work overload.”
    How’s that for a pointless exercise? People work harder and then need to take more time off. How about we shorten the work days? It’s great though that learning material can be consumed in little bits – it makes “time” sense.

  2. leye eloi wrote:

    A skill that needed to be taught throught a life time in office.
    Very interestng and innovative for ua

    Thank you for your help.