5 challenges to learning at work and how to overcome them

A follow on from the Top 10 strategies for learning at work this article looks at the challenges that we find people have

It is hard to work out what you need to learn.  Many of the attitudes, skills behaviours we need to learn are hard to describe and hard to put labels on.   Though we learn best from experience we are normally very poor at taking this tacit learning and turning it into explicit learning we can share.  Take time to reflect on what you have learned, put labels on it and teach it to others to consolidate.

Using feedback in the wrong context.  Feedback is great when it is informed, accurate and well intentioned.  This is rare.  Particularly for complex skills or behaviours observers can at best identify if they “like it” but they have very little then can offer in terms of how to improve.  Be choosy in the feedback you use.

Developing momentum is hard.  It is very easy to start on a learning journey and then lose steam.  This can be to do with other colleagues not doing their part, you being overoptimistic in your view on how much effort it would take or just getting busy elsewhere.  Tie the learning into live business challenges so that it is part of the day job to avoid this.  Be honest with colleagues who let you down and find better partners.

Seaching for clearly defined right answers when there are none.  Sometimes the answers to the important questions are not clear.  There is no "always right" way to develop a strategy or share bad news.  What you are looking to learn is better not perfect.

The gap between what your organisation says you need to learn and what you think matters.  “Why are they sending me on this course?”  Two things to remember.  Firstly they may know something that you don’t.  Secondly look for what you can use in a course and discard the rest. 


For all learning the crucial money point is to create a detailed and mulit level learning plan that makes explicit what you need to learn and how you are going to go about learning it.  The work we do with line managers and grads to create then align these plans makes a huge difference in performance and satisfaction.