7 Barriers to Organizational Learning
As a training and development professional, leading enterprise-wide learning is one of your most important responsibilities. But finding the right approach is no easy task—anyone with experience doing so can probably recall several major barriers to organizational learning.
But obstacles don’t have to turn into failures. We learned this lesson from Thomas Edison.
It took more than 150 failed attempts before Edison succeeded to make the first working light bulb. From all of those defeats, he mastered the filament technique that would eventually dominate lighting technology. But Edison never saw his initial pursuits as failures. Instead, he stated that he found over 150 ways not to make a light bulb.
Edison had the wisdom to understand that failure breeds success when something new is learned from it. We can apply the same logic to identifying barriers to organizational learning. If we know which potential hurdles could trip up an education effort, we can learn to overcome them.
7 Barriers to Organizational Learning
#1 – Employee 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 don’t want to learn new processes.
But resistance to change doesn’t only occur among the most tenured of employees. No, this kind of mentality can arise among anyone who doesn’t want to step away from the comfort of familiar processes and systems.
But for an organization to advance, change must be ongoing. As an organization adapts to dynamic markets, internal processes, knowledge, and use of technology will need to keep up.
To prevent resistance to change, explain to your employees why the change is necessary and how it will benefit them.
#2 – Ignoring the Elephant in the Room
If you ignore the elephant in the room, you’ll end up with a big mess.
What elephant are we talking about? The unpleasant aspects of organizational learning. These will vary depending on the change you implement, but they could be a new process, eliminating a technology platform your team is used to, or disruption to workflow.
Once you have identified barriers to organizational learning, you can find a solution. But, if left unaddressed, they will fester and get worse.
#3 – Lack of Leadership Training
Leadership development is critical to organizational learning. The communication, change management, and support skills required to guide organizational learning must be learned.
Inadequate leadership training leads to poorly run teams and chaos during periods of change. On the other hand, leaders who are equipped to guide learning efforts will boost the morale and confidence of their teams.
Continuous training and development is the key to ensuring your managers can guide change and learning efforts effectively.
#4 – Disregard of Team Success
Sometimes, it’s difficult to see how organizational learning programs fit in with an individual’s personal goals.
Learning often takes time and effort away from employees’ day-to-day tasks. When an organization prioritizes this investment in learning, but the employee does not, it is difficult to make that employee truly engaged.
To increase employee engagement in the learning process, illustrate how the new skills, processes or systems will enable them to work better. Show them how their individual success will lead to team success, and provide positive reinforcements for team achievements.
#5 – No Motivation for Growth
The excuse “That’s not in my job description” represents one of the most challenging barriers to organizational learning. Similar to the effects of resistance to change, employees who are not motivated for growth will not seek out opportunities provided by the organizations.
Not all organizational learning programs will be mandatory, even though they might still add value to an employee. This means the employee’s personal motivation to learn and grow will determine whether or not they participate.
To overcome this barrier, try motivating your employees by explaining the future benefits of the learning initiative. You might also consider implementing a system for rewarding employees as they make progress.
#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-tasking across multiple systems and 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.