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May 17, 2023

Learning at Work Week – Tips For Workplace Learning

Matthew Hughes


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To-do lists, email chains, IMs, meetings, reports – when you're faced with endless demands competing for your attention, taking the time to focus on yourself can feel close to impossible.

But we all know that self-development is critical for career progression – not to mention our sense of self-worth and job satisfaction. So we all need to find that time!

This week is Learning at Work Week in the U.K. It's an annual event designed to promote lifelong learning in the workplace.

This is what we're all about here at Mind Tools. Lifelong learning is the key to successful and satisfying careers. And for organizations, cultivating a strong learning culture is good for business and keeps employees happy and engaged: it's literally win–win. 

The Importance of Soft Skills

Workplace learning is not exclusively about gaining hard skills, like mastering a new piece of software or machinery. Soft skills are also crucial to a thriving career and an organization's success (arguably even more so). Conflict resolution, communication skills, change management, coaching – and that’s just the Cs! There's more to work than technical proficiency.

Project managers need a healthy arsenal of problem-solving skills; a good boss needs to know how to keep a team working together; leadership teams need to be able to delegate effectively. You can have all the technical proficiency in the world, but without these kinds of "soft" skills, you're not going to get far. 

A Case in Point

We regularly receive real-world tales from our subscribers on just how much of an impact mastering soft skills has on their work. Like this story from Mind Tools subscriber Sharon, a supervisor from Canada.

"I'd been having significant difficulty with staff members," Sharon said. "I was finding I was no longer able to effectively lead my team. I needed to enhance and hone my skills as a leader."

The solution? Improving her soft skills in leadership. (With a little help from Mind Tools.)

Our resources "... allowed me to focus in on my needs as well as the needs of my team," Sharon continued. "I've used a lot of the team-building tools, which have placed a focus on moving forward, not looking back." 

Top Tips for Learning at Work 

So if learning is so crucial to individuals and organizations alike, why do we struggle to find time for it and what can we do about it?  

To celebrate Learning at Work Week, here are some top tips for making time for learning.

Prioritize and Schedule 

First up: prioritize.  

You'll never find time for learning unless you make it a priority. One of my favorite of our resources is Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle. The 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower astutely distinguished between problems that are "urgent" and those that are "important." He said, "The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent."

The point is that it's easy to spend all your time on "urgent" things that demand all of your attention and lose sight of the "important" ones that don't have a set deadline – like learning. To combat this, you need to prioritize your development and schedule in your learning.  

A happy looking young man is sat at a desk working on a tablet while wearing headphones.
Learn when it suits you.

Make Time

Scheduling requires carving out time in your calendar. When we think of learning at work, it's easy to picture a laborious in-person group course, taking up a whole day of the week, or even longer. But this is no longer the case. 

At Mind Tools, we've designed our resources to be consumed "on-the-go," whenever and wherever you need them, making it easier to schedule learning into a busy working week. So it's never been simpler to dedicate time to development. 

Talking about the "bite-sized" nature of Mind Tools resources, Spencer Holt, Global Director of Leader and Enterprise Development at AstraZeneca said, "Having a tool that you can access at any time – and, more importantly, meets your development needs – starts to help us build our culture of lifelong learning."

So build time into your week to focus on learning in a way that suits you. Block out your calendar, switch off alerts, and dedicate time to the "important" – you and your future. 

Stay up to date, subscribe to our newsletter

Use Online Resources 

Because learning is now liberated from the classroom, you can access information online at the point of need, at an appropriate level, and in a format that suits your learning preferences.  

Looking for an audio resource on presentation tips before a big speech? Want a video breaking down a complex strategy tool as you plot next quarter's KPIs? Online self-directed learning empowers people to chart their own course and make learning work for them. 

Combine Activities 

Learning isn't all dense textbooks and PowerPoint karaoke. There are so many ways to learn – and you can even combine it with other activities. You can listen to a podcast while on your commute or out on a run (check out the excellent Mind Tools Expert Voices Podcast while you're at it), or you could watch a video while you do some ironing or while having a quick pause from your work tasks.

A word of caution here, though. Generally, it's good practice to focus on one thing at a time. We're healthily suspicious of multitasking here at Mind Tools, as the evidence suggests that the human brain can't really focus on more than one thing at a time. 

But still, we're all different, and you may find that certain activities combine well for you. And that's the beauty of on-the-go learning – how you learn is up to you.

Learning at Work Week

A final word from our subscriber Sanya Selak. She's a CEO at an Austrian company and a convert to the benefits of soft skills and self-directed workplace learning.

Referring to the impact she's seen it have on her people, she told us: "Skills such as managing conflict, giving balanced feedback, working well with others, making well-informed decisions… [they're] all extremely valuable in our everyday life."

And Sanya's seen how learning like this benefits people outside work, too. "These skills will also help them manage their private lives much better," she says.

So try to make learning a core part of your working week by prioritizing it, scheduling the time, using online resources, and (if possible) combining it with other activities.  

Meanwhile, join our mailing list to stay up to date with workplace learning and start your development journey.

Happy learning at work week! 

Useful Resources

Here's a curated list of Mind Tools resources, themed around learning at work (please keep in mind you may need to be a member of the Mind Tools Club to access certain resources):

Self-Directed Learning Video
8 Ways to Prioritize Your Professional Development
Effective Scheduling
To-Do Lists
Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle Infographic
Why Soft Skills Matter
Learning Styles
The Learning Zone Model
Learning Curves Video

About the Author:

Matthew Hughes

Matthew has 10 years of experience writing, editing and commissioning online content. As a content editor, he's worked in several industries – including charity, culture and travel – before finding his calling in L&D at Mind Tools, where he creates accessible, timely and engaging content for learners, across resource types.

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6 comments on “Learning at Work Week – Tips For Workplace Learning”

  1. It's good to know how you can utilize your time during the day for self learning and treat this activity as a high-priority thing to do in your to do list. That could help create a new habit of your lifestyle.

    1. Very good point there Tho Kim about making your learning a priority and making time for it, rather than simply trying to squeeze it in the diary whenever you might have time. When we make time for our learning, we grow and progress so much more!

  2. Make use of available spare time. I try to schedule some time on a weekly basis for learning. I usually review my calendar for the week ahead and block out some time and stick to it as much as possible.

    1. Great idea Charlotte! When we can block out time in our diaries for learning and treat it like any other appointment, we will more likely do it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I subscribe to some very good feeds like the HBR management tip of the day which is a daily boost, reflection or idea that you can try to put into practice right away. Early morning is my creative time for developing new ideas which expand one's reach beyond current bounds and I use mind mapping software for that (in fact for everything). I agree with a former contributor that you just have to prioritise important but not urgent things like learning over other things sometimes - otherwise the urgent will always win. On a hierarchy of needs learning is ultimately more important and fundamental.

    1. Thanks Robert for sharing your thoughts about learning. I agree that we need to be continually learning in some form or another in order to grow and the key is finding the right time which works best for us ... I'm also a morning person!

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