The Top Obstacles Facing Learning Leaders – And How to Overcome Them

August 22, 2017

These are the most common challenges learning and development professionals face, along with playbooks for overcoming them.

Learning professionals, you probably know what the ideal learning culture looks like for your organization, but there may be a few obstacles in your way.

For most learning pros, the obstacles advancing a learning culture usually include one or more of the following:

  • Executives don't do enough to support organizational learning.
  • Managers are not playing their role in encouraging employees to participate in learning.
  • Employee adoption of learning programs is low.
  • Building a modern learning strategy sounds great, but you're not sure where to start.
  • Defining and measuring the value of learning is hard, but seems necessary to getting further support for your programs.

In this post, as well as our new asset, A Modern Learning Playbook: How to Overcome Top Challenges to Advance Your Learning Culture, we bring you feedback from learning leaders like Elliott Masie, Tony Bingham, industry-relevant groups like CEB (now Gartner) and the ROI Institute on how to overcome these obstacles to advancing your culture of learning.

Activate Executives to Lead the Learning Charge

It’s not always easy to get executives to support, or better yet, evangelize organizational learning initiatives. But according to Elliott Masie, education technology expert and CEO of MASIE Productions, “The number-one thing you can do to set the tone for a learning culture is have leaders be active, transparent and iconic learners.”

Masie offers three tips to get executive support for organizational learning:

  • Promote learning from the top-down: Have the CEO or other C-level officers post key articles and content that the curate from places like LinkedIn Learning.
  • Make Learning Measurable: Give leaders metrics that are easy to leverage on their own and their staff’s learning shifts and impacts. Hold leaders accountable for the culture shifts in their organization.
  • Look to learning when times are tough: Leaders need to talk about the gaps in learning culture or learning readiness when there are business failures or downswings. What did we fail to do to leverage learning internally as an asset?

Activate Managers to Encourage Employee Learning

According to a LinkedIn survey, one of the top pain points for professionals responsible for learning and development (L&D) programs is getting managers to encourage learning with their teams. Employees are much more likely to engage in learning if the directive, and the continued support, comes from their managers.

President and CEO of Association for Talent Development (ATD), Tony Bingham, says getting managers onboard is a “must”.

“Managers must understand that developing their people and teams is an important responsibility and an opportunity to positively impact employee engagement," Bingham said. "With employee turnover and engagement as top challenges facing those in HR, the evidence that professional development contributes to engagement must be communicated effectively throughout the organization. Effective talent development can reduce turnover, increase productivity, and add to profitability.”

To encourage individual learning across the organization, encourage your managers to create individual learning plans and incorporate learning resources as part of existing routines with their employees, for example within regular 1:1 discussions or annual performance cycles.

Increase Employee Adoption

You have a learning solution in place, but the learning just isn’t happening. Studies show today’s employee wants to continuously learn and grow. In fact, LinkedIn found that 94 percent of employees say they'd be more likely to stay with a company if they invest in their learning and development. So, how do you get employees engaged?

According to CEB (now Gartner), "Instead of trying to build a culture of learning participation, organizations should be trying to build a productive learning culture. Rather than increasing the number of learning choices, they should help to direct employees to the right choices. Additionally, they should teach employees how to learn, not just what to learn, and create shared ownership for a productive learning environment at all levels."

eLearning can go a long way to providing employees with the right choices for learning. eLearning allows your organization to direct employees to the right curated content. Look for solutions that allow you and managers to create personalized playlists that pull from expert-led content sources as well as custom content your organization creates.

For more tips from learning leaders and real world examples on how to overcome these obstacles and more check out our latest asset, A Modern Learning Playbook: How to Overcome Challenges to Advance Your Learning Culture.