5 Advanced Techniques to Accelerate Workplace Learning
Learning is the key to surviving — and thriving — in today’s workplace. We all need new skills to keep up with technological change and advance our careers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, but there are some best practices to keep in mind. Here are a few techniques to make sure you and your employees accelerate workplace learning.
1. Commit to small goals and short learning sessions
When learning new skills, people often lack clarity with their goals. “Learning how to speak Spanish” is a bit too vague. How do you measure if you’ve achieved it? “Learn the 100 most frequently used Spanish words” is a measurable, achievable goal.
The key to enhancing your learning capabilities is breaking down your ambitions into a series of small, measurable, and achievable goals. When you break big goals down into smaller steps, you’ll find they aren’t as challenging to achieve as you think.
There’s another advantage to this approach. Small goals allow us to schedule learning in quick, short bursts known as microlearning. We get just enough knowledge to achieve a specific goal.
Microlearning is a powerful technique because it fits easily into the workday. You can take a few minutes to watch a video or practice a specific skill and jump back into your regular tasks. When we spend short bursts of time learning, we also reduce the chances of cognitive burnout. It’s much easier to fully engage when we limit the amount of time and mental strain involved with learning.
2. Learn how to block out distractions and single-task
Trying to learn while keeping an eye on your email and chat? No wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed! It’s often far less productive to multitask than it is to focus on one task at a time. When we attempt to switch from one task to another, it takes mental power and time to catch up. Plus, research shows recovering from interruptions cause more stress, frustration, and errors.
Focus your attention on learning for the best results. It’s not easy, but try blocking out distractions — whether it’s email, Slack, or your phone. Seventy-four percent of millennials and Gen Z employees report being distracted at work. And this was before the major shift to remote work.
When learning in a remote setting, there are a few steps you can take to focus better. Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning, and Audrey Espey, Lead Learning Designer at Udemy, share the following suggestions:
- Make a plan to limit distractions.
- Place your phone across the room, so you aren’t tempted to glance at it.
- Sign out of Slack or any other app that might distract you with notifications.
- If possible, ask your partner to watch children or pets so you can dedicate your full attention to learning.
3. Practice new skills as you learn them
The key to retaining information is regular practice. As soon as you’ve learned the basics of a new skill, put them to use by creating practical tests for yourself.
There’s a reason why frequent practice is so critical. The “forgetting curve” prevents us from reaping the benefits of newfound knowledge. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that people could retain more if they repeated the new information regularly. This practice is known as “spaced repetition.”
Making time for frequent bursts of learning and practice is a critical component of agile learning. This approach allows us to learn in intervals and immediately apply our new skills. When we engage in agile learning, we increase the likelihood we’ll retain and build upon our skills.
4. Discover what motivates you as a learner
Have you ever found yourself addicted to an app — whether it’s the latest social media platform or a trending game? The people who design apps and games understand human psychology and behavioral science. As learners, we can tap into that same understanding, also known as gamification.
Shelley Osborne explains that there are several common motivation styles:
- Achievers like to gain points, levels, badges, equipment, and other concrete measurements of success in a game. They will go to great lengths to achieve rewards simply for the prestige of having those rewards.
- Explorers love to discover new areas, create maps, or learn about hidden places. They find great joy in discovering an unknown glitch or hidden treasure.
- Socializers gain the most enjoyment from the game by interacting with other players.
- Killers thrive from the competition with other players.
When you understand your own motivation style, you can choose corresponding learning experiences. If you’re a naturally competitive salesperson, you might respond well to leaderboards and prizes. But if you’re more of a creative or problem-solving type, you might prefer activities like hackathons.
5. Share what you’ve learned with others
One of the best ways to accelerate learning is to not keep your knowledge to yourself! Seventy-five percent of the informal learning in the workplace occurs when people engage in peer-to-peer or social learning.
Social learning can take all kinds of forms. It might involve working with (or acting as) a mentor or coach. Or it is taking the same course as others and discussing it in a small group. It can also involve tapping into social media tools and online discussion forums.
For example, employees at Slack rely on their own chat tool. “Slack can also serve as an online social channel that keeps the learning conversation going post-training. Employees recommend relevant courses or articles to their peers and ask each other for advice long after the in-person workshop concludes,” says Ariel Hunsberger, Head of L&D at Slack.
Set your organization up for learning success
You now know some proven ways of accelerating learning. Set clear goals and short learning sessions, limit distractions, practice regularly, understand what motivates you, and share what you’ve learned with others.
Wondering how you can take these tactics and apply them across your organization? Download How to Overcome Learning Obstacles in the Workplace. This interactive workbook will help you push past common internal learning obstacles and create a concrete learning action plan.