Change is the only constant. As life changes, the need to adapt both professionally and personally is as real as change itself.
In the ever-changing business world, it has never been more important to adopt a continuous learning mindset. Developing a culture that encourages individuals to be curious and experimentative takes time, but there are a plethora of positive organisational benefits that will strengthen your team and boost business agility when your successful learning strategy starts gaining traction.
This article explores continuous learning, and will guide you to develop a continuous learning strategy that suits your business.
Learning is essential to our existence; information and intellectual stimulation nourishes our minds. Continuous learning is about further expanding our skillset in response to a changing environment and new developments. We are called to respond to changes daily, in our careers, our personal lives, our community; and continuous learning is the most effective method of dealing with change.
To function in a rapidly changing world, you need to learn new things to remain valuable, by taking on new challenges and exploring new business ventures. Rapid sharing of information via the internet in mere moments, worldwide, means knowledge is at our fingertips. It has never been easier to learn.
People need to learn new knowledge and skills in order to see things from a different perspective. The most innovative minds of the world are natural born, curious explorers. By acquiring new skills and knowledge, you deepen your understanding of problems, which leads to more creative, innovative solutions.
Innovation does not occur in organisations that do not support learning. Processes remain the same and nothing new is every accomplished. Curiousity is an essential component of innovation, and to stimulate this, organisations need to embed learning into their business plan, and make it flexible, on-demand, and continual.
Gone are the days when people would choose a career path, get a job, and stay with one company until retirement. The average person now changes jobs 12 times during their career, with most workers spending five or less years in each job. The rapid evolution of technology has unlocked new levels of curiousity, and employee interests extend far beyond their daily jobs. It is extremely common for people to pursue extracurricular activities that open new doors and opportunities to unique and exciting spaces.
Recruitment specialists Robert Walters generated a report that focused on attracting and retaining Millennial workers, who will make up the majority of the workforce by 2025. Of those surveyed in this report
, 68% cited a clear career path to grow in their role as the most important factor and motivator for keeping them engaged.
The ever-changing economic climate demands teams to be flexible, adaptable, and up-to-date with the latest knowledge. The concept of continuous learning aims to nurture your business, support your growth, and create a range of opportunities that allow you to remain competitive in your market.
Providing continuous learning opportunities for your employees, including opportunities around new technologies, practices and industry developments, strengthens your workforce to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing world. Stimulating the brain by teaching it new information enhances cognitive abilities, and increases problem-solving and memory. Stagnant workforces fall behind; continuous learning pushes businesses forward.
Companies that embed career development into their business plan stimulate a culture of “investing in people”, and significantly increase employee engagement and satisfaction. This translates into greater customer loyalty, higher revenue, reduced talent and acquisition costs and increased retention of key talent.
If employees see your organisation as willing to invest in their development, they are far more likely to be engaged, enthusiastic participants in their work, and willing to go the extra mile when needed. Continuous learning is about encouraging your employees to constantly learn, and providing them with the tools to facilitate this learning. This develops a deeper trust, and a sense of job security, as you show your employees that they are worth investing in.
There are three types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. It is important to consider this when building your continuous learning strategy, so you can be flexible to the individual needs of your employees.
Start by assessing the current learning practices within your organisation. Learning is happening whether you are aware of it or not. Some employees will be self-motivated, taking time to learn in their own time. The majority of your workforce however, will not have the time or resources to do this. It is unrealistic to expect all employees to engage in continuous learning during their work day or free time; typically employees will be focused on the tasks at hand, and do not want to be seen as wasting time. This is why embedding continuous learning into your employee experience from as early as onboarding is crucial.
You will need to identify learning gaps, and the best way to do this is to speak directly with your employees. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may do this research face-to-face, or through a survey. Ask your workforce where their skill gaps are, how they could improve, and what training opportunities they are looking for.
Since it is extremely unlikely that all members or your workforce will have the same learning style, it is important to decide how you will present opportunities to your employees. The most effective method is on-demand, allowing your employees to bring the learning opportunities they want or need to you, so you can assess the investment on a case-by-case basis. In larger organisations, this may be unrealistic, so it is important you provide a clear structure and budget toward learning activities.
Will learning be formal, self-directed, or social?
Will you invest in a learning management system so employees can complete online courses?
Will you dedicate a percentage of an employee’s working week toward learning?
Will you present seminars and workshops to your team and have interested members sign up and attend as interested?
Decide what you can accommodate, and what will work best for you and your team. Successful continuous learning starts with creating a habit of wanting to boost your knowledge, and your business should foster this habit from the moment someone joins your organisation. Implementing your continuous learning strategy may take some time, but when employees see a manager or supervisor fully engaged and supportive of learning, it creates an atmosphere that promotes continuous learning.
We practise what we preach. Here are some of the ways we have integrated continuous learning into our workplace culture.
Employees start learning from the moment they join our company. Prior to commencing work, employees receive a “Welcome aboard” presentation that outlines who we are and what to expect. On their first day, new employees complete company and role related onboarding through team maintained resources, and receive a series of onboarding emails in their first few weeks.
During the first two months of employment, all new employees complete a skills assessment of their role, and set learning goals that aim to close skill gaps. When one goal is complete, another is set, with team leaders facilitating regular goal catch ups for accountability. Our employees are encouraged to dedicate 20% of their working hours toward goal setting, research and development.
Online and external courses
We allocate part of our budget toward online courses, external workshops, exhibitions and conventions. Employees are encouraged to be self-directed to seek out and engage with the learning opportunities that suit them.
Friday afternoon Inspiration Jams
On Friday afternoons, we invite either an external speaker or internal team member to conduct a presentation for the company. External speakers bring inspiration, knowledge and expertise from a range of industries. Internal team members share personal interests, knowledge, or completed projects with the team. This knowledge sharing boosts our collaborative culture and celebrates individual achievements.
Staying competitive in today’s global marketplace means organisations need to be innovative, adaptive and ever-changing. The more your employees know and can do, the more they can contribute to your organisation. Investing in developing your team trains employees for future opportunities within your organisation, and hiring from within saves time, money and resources, and reduces employee turnover.
Be curious, be inquisitive, explore new ideas, run experiments, and bring your team on the journey so they too can do the same.