If you are a training and development professional, you likely face one or more, if not all, of the following barriers to organizational learning. It’s no easy task.
But barriers don’t have to be failures. We can learn this lesson from Thomas Edison.
Mr. Edison tried over 150 times to make a working light bulb, before he at long last mastered the filament technique that came to dominate lighting technology. He stated that he had not failed, as he had found over 150 ways to not make a light bulb.
Edison understood that failure is success when something new is learned from it. So, let’s take a look at what cases failure in organizational learning and learn to call them barriers.
Why? Barriers can be overcome.
7 Barriers to Organizational Learning
#1 – Stubbornness and Resistance to Change
Resistance to change is a common barrier to organizational learning. People who have been at their jobs for a long time and are set in their ways often find it difficult to learn new processes.
But resistance to change isn’t reserved for the most tenured of employees. No, this kind of mentality is inevitable and nearly every person is prone to it. Even you and me.
But for an organization to be efficient, training must be ongoing. As an organization adopts new technology and adapts to an ever-changing market, the internal processes and knowledge to conduct business as usual will need to be relearned to keep up.
Resistance to change is one of the most severe barriers to organizational learning. To make a difference, try beginning your training with an explanation of why the change is necessary and how it will benefit them.
#2 – Ignoring the Elephant in the Room
If everyone ignores the elephant in the room, that elephant is going to get in the way and make a mess of everything.
When there is a sensitive subject or unpleasant issue looming in your organizational learning – it will need to be discussed. If you can talk about a problem, you can find a way to solve the problem. But, if it is left unsaid, it will likely go unaddressed.
Once you have identified this barrier to organizational learning, you can take steps to strategically communicate to find a solution.
#3 – Lack of Leadership Training
Organizational leaders need training just as much as employees. Even if your managers are not responsible for the day to day interactions with new systems or processes, they should be trained to help their teams.
But even further, managers should be trained in leadership. When managers learn leadership skills they will be more effective boosting the morale and effectiveness of the rest of the organization.
Managers should be taught how to be present and involved with their employees, how to motivate employees and how to resolve issues.
#4 – Disregard of Team Success
The drive for personal accomplishments above team success can be detrimental to an organization. Sometimes, organizational learning programs may seem at odds with an individual’s personal goals.
Learning often takes time and effort away from the employee’s day-to-day tasks. When an organization prioritizes this investment in learning, but the employee does not, it is difficult to truly engage with that employee.
Even if they are present for a classroom training session, their mind might be wandering in thoughts of how this doesn’t benefit them.
In this case, illustrate how these new skills, processes or systems will make the team better and how a better team will benefit their personal goals as well.
#5 – No Motivation for Growth
The excuse “That’s not in my job description” can be used to deflect opportunities for learning and growth. Closely related to the being resistant to change, employees who are not motivated for growth will not seek out opportunities provided by the organizations.
Not all organizational learning programs can or will be mandatory, which means that you will need to depend on the employee’s personal motivation to disseminate information and make an impact.
To overcome this barrier to organizational learning, design your programs to be especially beneficial to the individual, team and organization. If the organization’s culture doesn’t already encourage employees to participate, consider a reward program.
#6 – Short-Term Focus
In business, it’s often easy to focus on stop gaps to solve short term problems without looking at the big picture. If an employee’s job is not focused on the long-term vision of the company, it’s easy to get caught up in short-term goals that do not include learning skills for the long-term benefit.
To solve this issue, encourage employees and managers to dedicate time for long-term goals and offer learning opportunities to fill this time.
#7 – Complexity
In the hyper-connected and always-busy world we live in today, complexity overwhelms the modern employee. In the digital workplace, we’re often multi-talking across multiple systems and multiple platforms.
Picture the experience of learning a new software system. An employee may be taught in a webinar, given a link to a knowledge base online and the login for actually using the system. Even though all the information is there, when it comes time to implement their new skills, they may need to bounce between three or more tabs to successfully reach their objective. That’s complex!
To overcome this barrier to organizational learning, simplify your training programs and materials to deliver only the information they need in the simplest possible format. This will allow your trainees to absorb the information and put it to use faster.