How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way

The world of work is changing rapidly. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This only fuels stress and feelings of overwhelm.

Not only do you need to perform tasks on hand, but you also need to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to sustain your career, advance your career and improve your work performance. When you feel too busy to upgrade your skills, how do you make time to learn at work?

Continuous learning impacts your employability. It is essential to show employers your willingness to stay updated or even ahead of trends. Your ability to think critically, be agile from learning and consistently apply what you learn is critical in a constantly changing economy.

In this article, you will discover how to learn at work effectively:

1. Identify Your Learning Goals

Here are a few questions to help you think about your learning goals:

  • Why do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What’s the motivation behind your learning?
  • What knowledge or skills can help advance your career?
  • What knowledge or skills can help enhance your work performance?
  • What do you need in order to grow in your career and as a person?

Consider feedback or comments from your peers, managers, and stakeholders. There is no limit on what you can learn. The learning can range from technical skills to interpersonal skills.

2. Take Concrete Action

You need to take control. If you’re not invested in your own learning, no one else will be. This means you’ll need to take steps to realize your learning.

Taking action comes in different forms for different learners. For example, asking your manager to be considered for a project or seeking advice from your mentor.

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Take the initiative. When you show others’ that you’re a continuous and willing learner, they will likely see your growth and be more likely to invest their time and resources in you.

3. Make Learning a Habit

Set realistic and achievable learning goals. Select one to a maximum of three learning goals.

Commit to your goal like you would to eating healthy foods or exercise. You may want to find an accountability partner or inform your manager so that you have a supportive network to keep you on track.

Take a look at this article and learn how to do so: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

4. Budget Time to Learn

You need to make a conscious effort to learn. This means intentionally making time and space to learn.

Make sure that you learn in bite-sized pieces so that it’s sustainable over the long-run. This could mean blocking off 15 minutes daily in your calendar or whatever suits your learning style. For example, if you learn one new word daily, you will learn 365 words in a year.

We all know that life and work happens, and you may feel too busy to learn. However, by being mindful of why learning is important to you and making it a priority in our calendars we are reminded to turn a learning habit into a routine.

5. Learn On-the-Job

A common perception is that the majority of learning happens in the classroom. However, 30 years of research in leadership development has proven that 70% of learning happens on-the-job. Here’s the breakdown of effective leadership development learning experiences:

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  • 70% challenging assignments
  • 20% developmental relationships, and
  • 10% course work

And here’re 7 ways to learn on-the-job:

Stretch Assignments

Once you’ve identified your learning objective, you can find stretch assignments or projects that can facilitate your learning.

For example, if you’ve identified that building relationships is a skill that you’d like to enhance, you may want to seek projects that involve multiple stakeholders.

Create New Experiences

Whatever knowledge-base you’re trying to expand, try to get out of your routine and find new experiences related to your learning goal. Sometimes, in order for you to learn at work, you’ll need to create new experiences.

Review the strategic direction of your organization for development ideas. New experiences can entail activities such as new client opportunities, more cross-functional partnerships, job shadowing, job rotations, or volunteer work.

Learn from Others

Learning from others is a simple and easy way to pick up quick tips.

  • Heighten your observation skills. The next time you’re sitting in a meeting, what do you notice about the presenter? What do you see in their body language? What do you notice about the participants in the meeting? What lessons did you learn from the meeting that you can apply the next time you run a meeting?
  • Learn at work by observing someone who inspires you. Maybe this person is an effective people developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviours does this person show? How does this person act?
  • Learn from your manager. We’ve all had managers that were remarkable and those that are unforgivable. What qualities do you want to exhibit? What qualities are better left behind?
  • Learn from your peers. Notice the strengths of every peer on your team. What do they do well? How do they contribute to the team? What do they have in common?

Ask Questions

There is a lot to learn in any organization. Learn at work by being curious and asking questions.

When you ask questions, you are clarifying and seeking to better understand the situation and people involved. The information you gather expands your mind and knowledge-base.

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Try asking more open-ended questions beginning with Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How so that you can get a more descriptive narrative from the other party.

Find a Mentor or Trusted Advisor

We all need someone who we can talk things out with. A mentor or trusted advisor can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings without being judged.

Be very specific about what you need from your mentor: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the action you have taken. This is a great starting point to show your mentor that you have experimented with a few options and would now like to have a discussion on how to move forward. This approach will likely be better received than just asking your mentor for advice.

A peer once told me to bring RIBS – Raise an Issue and Bring a Solution.

Remember that your mentor’s time is valuable. Show him/her that you have invested in yourself and tried to make improvements on your own first.

Get Support

Let your manager know that you welcome opportunities for learning. She/he will likely have exposure to on-the-job opportunities that are aligned with your learning needs and the organization’s goals.

Keeping them updated on your learning progress can also support your performance goals. This will give you an opportunity to tweak your learning goals based on your career aspirations and their observations of your performance.

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Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge.

Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals.

Employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

Bottom Line

You need to be very intentional about your own learning.

The most effective way to learn at work is on-the-job. This means you need to identify your learning goals, create a learning habit and identify on-the-job experiences that will effectively facilitate your learning.

Some key ways to learn on-the-job include:

  • Stretch assignments
  • Create new experiences
  • Learn from others
  • Ask questions
  • Find a mentor or trusted advisor
  • Get support
  • Ask to be introduced to new a colleague

No one can take knowledge away from you. It’s in your own interest to continue to grow and develop yourself.

Learn with a beginner’s mindset, stay curious, and keep your assumptions a bay to gain new perspectives.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com