9 Steps to Overcome the Biggest Obstacle to Learning: Time

Shelley Osborne

Head of Learning & Development at Udemy

October 18, 2017

Despite employees’ best intentions to learn, time keeps slipping by as they navigate crazy work and personal schedules. In our latest survey of 425 employees across a range of companies, we discovered that 54% of employees felt “having more time to learn at work” would help them learn more effectively. This sentiment was echoed by 73% of corporate Learning & Development (L&D) managers who rated “having time to learn at work” as the top challenge facing their employees.

So how can L&D leaders overcome this obstacle and boost learning engagement at your organization?

Drop Everything and Learn (DEAL) Hour

Here is a step-by-step formula for carving out time for learning based on our successful Drop Everything and Learn (DEAL) Hour program at Udemy.

Step 1: Put learning on the calendar. We scheduled a Drop Everything and Learn (DEAL) Hour every month, which is essentially a one-hour time slot on every employee’s calendar dedicated to learning. Just like an All-Hands meeting, this allotted time means employees are given the space and time to learn at work.

Step 2: Schedule learning during the most popular time to learn. We picked Wednesday at 3:00pm for our monthly DEAL Hour since it’s the most popular time to learn at work based on analyzing learning patterns of our 18 million users on Udemy, the world’s largest online learning platform. See more interesting learning facts in our Udemy 2017 Learning Trends & Predictions Report.

Step 3: Get manager buy-in. We communicated to all Udemy managers the importance of DEAL hours. We wanted to make sure they prioritized learning with their team and allowed for flexibility on any deadlines so people felt free to learn.

Step 4: Bring your CEO onboard. In addition to manager buy-in, our CEO announced the DEAL hour at our All-Hands meeting and encouraged every employee to participate—emphasizing that learning was a company priority. Our CEO also takes time out to learn during DEAL hour and shares the courses he’s taking on our internal social media Slack channel.

Step 5: Encourage grassroots learning. We also collaborated with our Culture Crew, an employee-inspired group that plans culture-related programs at Udemy. Our Culture Crew came up with their own ideas to encourage learning and we incorporated them into our DEAL Hour program. For example, our Culture Crew created a pop-up “Learning Nook” with cozy bean bags, couches and snacks for quiet learning.

Step 6: Let employees choose their own adventure. As a first option during DEAL Hour, we let employees select their Udemy course of choice and learn in any space they wanted—at their desks, on couches, on the outdoor rooftop deck, or in our Learning Nook.

Step 7: Silent learning disco & cohort discussion. As a second option, employees could choose to learn with a cohort instead. Instead of learning on their own, they could join one of three pre-selected Udemy courses and gather in a room to learn and discuss the topic of choice with co-workers. For one of the curated cohort sessions led by our Culture Crew, employees watched a 30-minute gender bias online course followed by a facilitated discussion on actionable takeaways to change behavior. (And they offered cupcakes too!) In addition, our executive team also led cohort courses and discussions during DEAL hour—driving home the point that everyone should make time to learn. By leading a cohort session, our executive team served as learning evangelists and gave employees permission to learn.

Step 8: Think like a marketer and “Eat Your Own Chocolate.” It’s not enough to build it and hope they will come. We partnered with our internal Marketing team to design an awareness campaign so employees knew what DEAL hour was all about. Together we came up with the tagline “Eat Your Own Chocolate.” To bring it to life, we placed branded chocolate bars on employee desks the morning of DEAL Hour, along with a “Do not disturb” sign to put on their computers. We also posted regular updates in our internal communication Slack channel #udemy-learns to generate excitement for DEAL Hour. After DEAL hour, we set up a “Photo booth” with DEAL hour signs for employees to post photos of themselves along with what course they took on our Slack channel to keep the momentum for learning alive.

Step 9: Measure your learning metrics. So what were the results from our first DEAL hour? We enjoyed a 75% learning engagement rate company-wide and consumed 5808 minutes of learning on our Udemy platform in that one hour. Employees finally had the time to learn at work and didn’t have to feel bad about it.

One magical hour of learning

For one magical hour every month, our Udemy employees take the time to learn everything from SQL and Python programming to management skills and yoga. With this dedicated time to learn, we have effectively infused learning as part of Udemy’s DNA—providing a key building block to support our culture of learning.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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