How to Break These 5 Barriers to Learning in the Workplace

While we’d love to keep this article short and sweet by stating that there are absolutely zero barriers to effective learning in the workplace, we’d be lying to your face. And that isn’t a very good look.

So in the spirit of honesty and goodwill, we’ll use the next couple of paragraphs to outline five common barriers to learning in the workplace instead. We’ll also explain how you can overcome them. We know, what a treat — it’s like Christmas Day!

Barrier 1. The hybrid/remote workplace

In recent years, hybrid and remote work has become the “new normal” — or should we say “the latest in a long line of new normals”?

While this shift has brought plenty of benefits, such as increased flexibility and not having to listen to Craig from Sales munching on crisps all day, it has also raised many issues, making it a potential barrier to effective learning and development. 

Switching from a packed and noisy office environment to a quiet room at home is a big change. It’s a dream come true for some, but others find themselves feeling isolated, disengaged, and disconnected from their colleagues and the business itself. When people lose that sense of community, it can be difficult for them to remember that they are contributing to a shared goal.

Then there’s the logistical issue of people working across different locations and time zones, making it difficult to align learning pathways with every single employee. The old-school classroom-based mode of learning no longer works. 

“So what’s the solution,” we hear you ask impatiently. “How are we supposed to deliver effective learning at work in this newest of new normals?” Well, by introducing digitised forms of online learning, your employees can access learning content and design their own learning pathways in any place, at any time. 

Digitised learning can also encourage a sense of community, even in remote situations. By bringing teams together to collaborate on tasks and implement the new soft skills they’ve learnt, they get to engage and interact with one another while still benefiting from the flexibility of online learning.

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To change this, businesses must provide clarity around how people’s specific learning goals and pathways will contribute towards professional development and career progression. Make that connection, and you ensure employees will actively want to learn new skills. 

The key to achieving this is to prioritise closer communication and collaboration in the form of regular one-to-ones and conversations, where learning objectives align with personal and professional goals. 

It also helps to utilise informal learning approaches and engaging learning pathways that keep the process fun, fresh, and new. 

Suggested reading: You’ll find plenty of handy tips for making learning engaging in this article — 6 Steps to Build a Workplace Culture Conducive to Learning.

Barrier 3. Ineffective learning materials

Ineffective learning materials lead to poor learning outcomes. Now, we don’t expect to get a standing ovation for this particular insight (perhaps a light ripple of applause?), but it’s worth stating nonetheless, simply because some businesses continue to use learning materials that are more conducive to quiet desperation than learning. 

What do we mean by ineffective? Well, any learning materials that are unengaging or ill-conceived. They should all be binned. So that three-hour PowerPoint presentation with no images about how to use the office coffee machine? Yeah, we hate to break it to you. 

In our decades of experience in the learning industry, we’ve found that the best learning materials are equal parts entertaining and expert-led. The entertaining part is particularly important but often sorely overlooked. One can focus so much on incorporating all the nitty-gritty details that they forget to create learning content that’s educational and enjoyable, incorporating jokes, storylines and interactivity with the participants.

To overcome this particular barrier, managers should look towards learning content that is customisable and entertaining while still being highly informative — which, funnily enough, is exactly what we offer at Video Arts. 

Suggested reading: We’re also great advocates for high-quality video content, which is why we’ve suggested 6 reasons why video should be a part of your digital learning solution

Barrier 4. Disengagement from learning

Feeling disengaged from the learning experience leads to poor results. Information goes in one ear and out the other, making the whole process a complete waste of time. To create effective employee training and development, it must be engaging. And by engaging, we simply mean that people don’t have to try to listen or look interested, because they actually are

So what makes a learning experience engaging? In our experience, two key ingredients keep people interested and enthralled: humour and video. 

Humour has an incredible ability to get people engaged and focused on what’s being said. This is something we intuitively know from consuming content in our free time, yet it is often overlooked in the learning industry in favour of the cold-and-corporate vibe. Weird, eh?

Did you know? Digital learning is on the up! While 49% of corporate training is conducted via instructor-led classroom delivery, in 2015 digital learning made up 41% of the pool — and that’s pre-pandemic.1

Video is naturally more engaging than other modes of learning. There’s something about the audio-visual experience that makes even the most abstract or complicated topics digestible. Again, for all the studies and data in the world, this is something we intuitively know from our own experience. 

Barrier 5. Inaccurate expectations

There’s an expectation gap between what workplace learning should involve and what it actually involves. Employees expect learning opportunities to be highly relevant and tailored to their specific skills and needs. But all too often, they get learning materials and pathways that are designed for everyone

This approach never works. It’s like inviting everyone to dinner and then serving steak. Some people will love it. Some will think it’s a bit gross. Some will be vegans and deeply offended. That’s because when it comes to personal preferences and needs, everyone doesn’t exist.

From the manager’s side, there’s a temptation to see 100% sign-up rates as the gold standard of success, when they should be focussing on how learning impacts metrics such as employee satisfaction and turnover. 

Ideally, managers should offer blended learning that is highly personalised, ensuring that the right people get the right support at the right time. They should then ensure that training and development programs are regularly reviewed, so that employees develop and grow their skills consistently.

Video Arts breaks down all barriers to learning

Ultimately, there’s one thing that helps break down pretty much all barriers to organisational learning — and that’s engaging learning pathways. It’s really that simple. 

At Video Arts, we’ve been a leading force in helping managers build a strong learning culture through content that is engaging, fun, and informative — content that puts humour front and centre.  

We work with some of the biggest and best names in British comedy to deliver learning content that is genuinely entertaining. And it’s not just about having a laugh — research shows that humour activates parts of the brain associated with goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory.2 Clever eh?

If you’d like to see for yourself, why not contact us today and talk to one of our L&D experts? 

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1 Enhancing workplace digital learning by use of the science of learning | PLOS ONE 

2 Laughter and Learning: Humor Boosts Retention


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