Have you hit a learning plateau? Feeling like you’ve maxed out in your current skill set? Here’s how to breakthrough and reinvigorate your growth and development!

Keri-Ann Nesbeth
September 26, 2018

Has it been a while since you’ve felt a challenge in your day-to-day work? Have you felt a dip in your motivation as of late, especially when working on projects that once filled you up? You’ve more than likely hit a learning plateau.

Consistent and substantial bouts of learning and development typically occur within the first 2-3 years in a role. However, once you’ve mastered the technical and soft skills needed to be successful in your day-to-day work, it can become more and more challenging to continue learning and getting better.

While your individual learning and development are typically discussed with your manager on an annual basis, it’s important to create a development plan that includes incremental goals and checkpoints along the way so that you are continually working towards them before you begin to hit a learning plateau. Your plan should be realistic, detailed and most important – include measurable outcomes.

Here at EdFuel, we anchor our approach to development in the 70/20/10 model, which was developed by The Center for Creative Leadership.

In this model, the following ratios hold true: 70% of your learning and development comes from on-the-job experiences and challenges, 20% from coaching and mentor relationships, and the remaining 10% comes from coursework and training.

Click here to read more from The Bridgespan Group. Access EdFuel’s 70/20/10 development plan template here.

On-the-job Experiences and Challenges (70%)

An important thing to keep in mind when creating your plan is that it should focus on your individual development goals, not the specific objectives of your current role. For example, in the sample provided above, public speaking is a skill that will be beneficial to the individual’s overall growth and learning and on-the-job experiences will be used to help shape development.

Too often, we create development plans that hone in on a specific objective for our role (e.g. “I will master how to run our team’s data”) instead of ironing out what our needs are to continue to propel our individual growth and learning as professionals (e.g. “I will learn how to use applicant tracking software to increase my systems management skills”).

The basis of your development goals should be based on competencies and using them to tease out the specifics of your on-the-job experiences. Consider utilizing your organization’s role-based competencies, or access EdFuel’s competency maps here, to help identify stretch skills to work on for the next level up (e.g. an associate looking to director level competencies) and then align your experiences and challenges to those.

Coaching and Mentoring (20%)

Developmental relationships are key to gathering feedback and insights on progress towards your growth and learning goals. After deciding on the skill that you want to develop, and the experiences you’ll use on-the-job to practice and gain exposure, identify key individuals who will be able to help you track your progress over time and provide insights, guidance, and coaching and development.

For example, consider checking in routinely with your manager to discuss progress and ask for input on specific aspects of your on-the-job experiences as it relates to your development goal (e.g. ask your manager to let you know when you’re not speaking up enough in meetings). In addition, consider asking clients or coworkers to provide feedback based on their experience (e.g. explicitly asking for feedback on your meeting facilitation).

The key thing to remember when navigating developmental relationships is to be open to new ideas and anticipate that some of your blind spots may be uncovered when gathering feedback.

“Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.”
– Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

Coursework and Training (10%)

Whether you read a book or listen to a podcast to help shape your mindset or attend a peer learning program that provides the necessary tools and resources, coursework and training are the final pieces to ensure that your development is long lasting and impactful.

Once you’ve narrowed down your skill, on-the-job experiences, coaching and mentoring relationships the next step will be to pinpoint the right training and self-study options. For example, if you’re looking to increase your public speaking ability, The Toastmasters Podcast would be a great one to consider. If you’re looking to attend a workshop where you can learn from your peers and national best practices, consider attending a peer learning network. EdFuel offers Peer Learning Communities that bring professionals together around a number of different topics to share their experiences and raise problems of practice in order to identify solutions. Click here to learn more.

Be practical when picking your coursework and training to ensure that you will enjoy completing them, as well as grow and learn authentically. Keep in mind that the coaches and mentors you choose can also share good recommendations.

Lastly, here’s a simple checklist that you can continually revisit when you feel like you’re hitting a learning plateau and ready to breakthrough.

  1. Identify if your development plan needs a refresh and utilize competency maps as a starting point (click here to access EdFuel’s)
  2. Attempt new on-the-job experiences to pinpoint weak spots in your current skill set and stretch opportunities to work on
  3. Develop new relationships to increase your learning and gather insight from different sources
  4. Mix up your coursework and training
  5. Proactively create automatic reminders so you check back in prior to hitting another plateau