Encouraging Lifelong Learning: Continuous Learning in the Workplace
Loren Learny | 4 min read
Looking at life as an opportunity for continuous learning opens avenues for personal, academic, and professional success. In business, continuous learning allows workers to consistently gain knowledge and skills and provides organizations with an adaptable workforce to expand their capacity and capabilities.
Knowledge is valuable, and learning is the most important investment you can make in your employees and your business.
In the workplace, continuous learning occurs when employees have opportunities to learn as they work. Workers are allowed and encouraged to make a habit of acquiring the new skills, knowledge, and information they need to perform their jobs better.
An intentional continuous learning culture supports an effective learning system, as enthusiastic students are the most likely to engage in the learning opportunities available. Upskilling and in-house educational opportunities are elements of continuous learning; outside of work, employees may pursue workshops, conferences, online classes, and university courses to enhance their professional knowledge. Innovative tools and technology can be used — onsite or as a distance learning option — to build skills and capability across your entire organization.
Continuous learning comes in many forms. It may be employees taking certification courses to maintain regulatory compliance, training on new tools or equipment, or shadowing a coworker from another department to increase collaboration and build stronger teams. It can also focus on soft skills — facilitating communication with team members, engaging more fully in critical thinking, or finding creative ways to solve problems.
Continuous learning culture
The benefits of building a strong continuous learning culture are profound. Employees who gain skills from such opportunities are perfectly poised for seniority and leadership positions. Continuous learning increases retention: 94% of workers stay longer when their employer invests in their education and training, but almost half of employees with poor or limited training will leave within their first year.
Employees want to further their skills and stay professionally competitive, and upskilling and reskilling is less expensive than recruiting, onboarding, and training new workers — particularly in a competitive job market. Continuous learning increases employee engagement, motivation, and connection to company values. In short, learning opportunities provide a more positive employee experience.
Learning as a way of life
Create a continuous learning culture for your employees — and make skill development a natural part of their work life — with a positive, intentional approach. Consider these strategies:
- Allow for self-directed learning. Required training for compliance or protocol changes is one thing, but self-directed learning opportunities consider what employees want to learn. Take time to ask them. Encourage your employees to choose opportunities appropriate for their job needs and personal interests.
- Balance learning and performance goals. Discuss individual learning goals with employees during performance reviews. Make goals as direct and concrete as possible, and make sure every employee can choose training that interests them and contributes to their job performance.
- Include learning in your check-ins. Employees aren’t always given the chance to share new knowledge, and showing authentic interest helps everyone observe and appreciate progress. Make learning checks a part of your regular communication. An excited, motivated learner is a strong, positive influence on your team.
- Establish mentoring programs. Learning isn’t always easy on your own. Mentorships encourage employees to be lifelong learners — and learning facilitators. Connect employees with more experienced workers or other industry experts. Mentoring motivates learners to consider their career with personalized, expert input from someone further along the path.
- Build a library of resources. It is far easier to explore new knowledge when it’s readily available. A professional development library can include books, videos, online courses, or audiobooks, and may address everything from self-improvement to building industry specific skills. It also gives you a convenient place to store reference materials, including guides, protocols, and written policies and procedures, for quick access.
- Implement a learning management system (LMS). Like a physical library, an LMS allows you to keep your learning materials in one place, but it also includes tools for skill assessment and documentation of each employee’s learning progress.
- Recognize learning as an achievement. Recognizing learning progress is vital to employee motivation. To encourage learning and growth, offer completion certificates, create a “learning achievement wall,” and use incentives, such as vouchers or small gifts, to show your support for your employee’s learning efforts.