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May 25, 2023

Are your people too busy to learn?

Lucy Bishop

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Whether it’s a particular soft skill you want your team to work on developing or just a short article you think might benefit them, finding time in your day for learning can be difficult.

And sure enough, far too often, things like this fall to the bottom of our To-Do Lists, pushed out by other priorities.

Why making time for learning matters

When learning goes ignored or overlooked for too long it can lead to significant problems. For example, loss of skills and knowledge, decreased productivity, and reduced motivation and satisfaction among staff. It can also affect performance, and your organization’s ability to stay competitive by limiting opportunities for creativity and innovation. It can even result in legal challenges or fines, for example, if compliance or health and safety training gets ignored.

So, in this blog, we’re going to explore some of the key barriers that people face in finding the time for learning – and what you can do to encourage and help your people overcome them.

A “lack of time to learn” Is the biggest challenge for employees

Despite an increasing desire among employees to improve their skills, many still can’t find the time to do what they want to do. In fact, according to Mind Tools’ 2022 Learning Performance Benchmark, “a lack of time to learn” was by far the biggest challenge facing employees. In contrast, other barriers to development, such as finding the right resources, unclear personal goals, or the lack of a place to learn, all scored relatively low, at under 15 percent.

Interestingly, remote workers tended to struggle more with finding time for learning compared to office-based workers. 54 percent of remote workers agreed it was a barrier, compared to 39 percent of office workers. [1]

These results suggest that, despite the flexibility that working from home offers, the lack of structure and in-person “nudges” or reminders for people to work on their personal development, could be making it harder for remote and hybrid workers to prioritize learning above their other responsibilities.

The power of collaboration

Another reason why remote workers are finding it hard to make time for learning could be isolation. Collaborative work is often rated as the most valuable method of learning, with support from colleagues (79 percent) and managers (66 percent) rated higher than support from mentors (45 percent) and coaches (34 percent). [1]

Managers, in particular, play a crucial role in leading by example here, and encouraging their people to prioritize their own development. They are also pivotal in helping people to discover relevant learning opportunities that suit their roles and responsibilities – and help them to achieve their personal goals, as well as those of their organization.

In fact, managers were cited as the leading source of information about learning among employees in our latest annual L&D Benchmark Report, with 38 percent of people agreeing that this was the case for them. Other popular sources included internal communications (32 percent) and colleagues (31 percent), once again demonstrating the importance of peer-to-peer collaboration. [2]

Managers need to lead learning

Despite these findings, over the past five years our research has shown that “reluctance by managers to make time for learning” has consistently been voted as the biggest challenge facing L&D teams. Mind Tools’ 2022 Learning Performance Benchmark revealed that a massive 91 percent of L&D leaders were either somewhat or extremely concerned about the reluctance of managers to make time for learning.

The report also showed that high-performing L&D teams had managers in place who recognized the value of learning in the flow of work (62 percent of high performers) and that managers were also equipped with resources that allowed their teams to get the most out of learning (83 percent). [2]

It’s clear that managers play a vital role in leading learning within an organization. They are the link between an organization’s learning aspirations and the people on the ground. But to truly be effective in leading learning, managers need to have a good knowledge of relevant training – and where people can go to find it. They also need to encourage employees to set learning goals and help them to dedicate time in their busy schedules so that they can achieve them.

Delivering learning at the point of need

With so many time pressures facing us nowadays, when we do find some time for learning, it needs to be purposeful, easy to find and easy to interpret. Sometimes people may only have 10 minutes in the day for their own development. So, when they get to that point, learning needs to be just a click away.

This is backed up by findings from our Learner Intelligence Report series, which found that one of the most stable patterns to emerge over the past few years has been employees’ preference for accessing resources at the point of need (56 percent). [1] So organizations need to have relevant learning resources on hand for their employees, and they need to be clearly signposted. The organizations can do this by having a good understanding of the kind of problems their employees often face. For example, a call center may need a range of resources that help their employees to deliver great customer service or navigate difficult conversations.

Understanding the types of skills that employees want to develop on a personal and professional level is also critical, and supplying relevant information that allows them to do this can enhance job satisfaction.

If you want to discover more about how Mind Tools for Business can help you to deliver great learning resources to your employees at the point of need, book a demo here


[1] Mind Tools for Business (2022). Learner Intelligence Report 2022: Is hybrid working? Available here.

[2] Mind Tools for Business (2022). Annual L&D Benchmark Report: Is your learning culture keeping pace with rapid digitalization? Available here.

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