Continuous learning is a process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. As the name suggests, the process is cyclical and goes on an ongoing basis. Unlike conventional learning models, this particular model is flexible in terms of schedule building. However, continuous learning in the workplace is a specific phenomenon. It targets the professional workforce and aims to enrich their knowledge so they may advance in their careers.
Over the years, with breakthrough advancements in educational technology, learning has become quite dynamic. The same is also true for professional learning. Organizations are investing in the growth of their employees now more than ever. This is how continuous learning found its way inside offices.
Interestingly, continuous learning in the workplace is not only limited to conceptual knowledge but here emphasis is also put on practical learning. With this, professionals get a great opportunity to expand on their soft skills such as management, leadership, and collaboration.
Importance of continuous learning in the workplace
It is now imperative upon organizations to be adaptive and innovative if they wish to survive the market competition. This means that there is a greater need now to invest in the skill-building of the workforce.
Benefits for organizations
Improves employee performance. It is a rather simple concept. When employers invest in the overall learning of the employees, they end up with new skills. Hence, they have better preparation to deal with more challenging issues during their jobs. It only makes sense. People with a limited skillset have limited potential. Therefore, by investing in employee educational growth, companies can note an improvement in work quality.
It is cost-effective. Hiring and rehiring are tiring, tedious, and expensive processes. This is where continuous learning in the workplace comes in handy. By investing in your existing workforce's skillset, companies can ensure that there is never a skill deficit in the organization. Consequently, it overrides the requirement of hiring new recruits to meet the deficit. Moreover, when employees feel valued they stay loyal to their organizations minimizing the threat of brain drain.
Building further on the last point, workplace learning programs make employees feel valued. When employees notice that their organizations are investing in their professional growth, they appreciate it and try to give back. For any company, it is important that its workforce feels at home to work diligently. These smart investments can go on to reap numerous benefits for the organization such as employee retention. As per a report, 94% of the employees tend to stay longer at their jobs if they feel that the company invests in them.
Furthermore, continuous learning in the workplace also helps with quality hires. Companies with reputable training programs and growth opportunities also attract highly qualified professionals. Such incentives help companies scout for better talent which can be tough during the current competitive economy. According to LinkedIn's 2021 Workplace Learning Report, some 76% of Gen Z professionals believe learning is vital for having a successful career.
Benefits for professionals
Besides improving the overall performance, professionals also report higher job satisfaction when provided workplace learning opportunities. With adequate training, professionals can experience personal enrichment. Training like this is not only about content learning but rather also about the personal development of individuals. The goal is to make well-prepared professionals out of employees. Hence, their self-confidence also increases. They can rely more on themselves to deal with greater challenges.
A rather important advantage for young professionals is that continuous learning in the workplace offers career development opportunities. With a growing skill set and knowledge base, employees can apply for promotions. Moreover, workplace training also provides an exclusive opportunity for trainees to earn prestigious accreditations and certifications. Individuals can use them to power up their CVs and improve their marketability prospects.
Examples of continuous learning
There are 4 commonly known types of the continuous learning model which most of you will be familiar with.
1. Formal learning
This is the most popularly known type. We have all experienced it in our lives. Formal learning is a type of synchronous learning where learners learn in a uniform setting collaboratively. It is how we learn in classrooms. Other examples of formal learning include online cohort-based courses, mobile learning courses, webinars, etc.
More specifically, in the workplace, formal learning can be practiced in the form of pre-scheduled training sessions for specific employee batches. They can learn directly from experienced professionals and guest speakers in a specialized setting. Furthermore, some organizations can even hold training quizzes to keep track of the learning performance.
2. Social learning
Social learning is a fairly adaptable model. It can be thought of as a broader category covering these types or a separate type within itself. It lays emphasis on learner collaboration. The idea is that people learn and perform better when they interact actively with one another. This particular learning strategy uses group discussions, mentoring, and shadow training practices for knowledge acquisition. Organizations may use collaborative learning tools such as Slack to foster social learning. A good example relevant to the workplace is On-the-job training.
3. Self-directed learning
Statistics show that 58% of employees wish to learn at their own pace. Indeed, it can be hard to manage a work-life balance. This is why flexible models such as this are quite handy. Self-directed learning includes individual researching and reading to gain a deeper understanding of a topic. This can also include listening to informational podcasts and watching relevant subject-matter videos. Self-directed learning is all about personal experimentation and exploration.
4. Hybrid learning
If learning alone is too isolating for you and learning in groups too overwhelming, then hybrid learning is the ultimate solution for you. It is a blended-learning format that combines digital media with educator-led learning to suit the all-rounded needs of learners.
How to incorporate continuous learning in your workplace?
To adjust continuous learning in the workplace requires dedication, commitment, and most importantly, resources. Before organizations begin investing in blind ventures, it is a good tidbit to shake away the unrealistic goal of making all employees engage during their work or free hours. Employees have different learning levels and schedules, therefore, getting them to engage at one time will prove counter-productive.
Instead, practice a more individual-centric approach wherein employees can have flexible learning ideally simultaneously with their work during working hours. Fix a certain daily learning hour where the learners can tune in and learn. At the same time, keep it light and fun so it seems more like a work break than an extra burden to them.
Here are some ways in which you can better include continuous learning strategies in your workplace:
Start with leaders
For anyone in an organization, a direction can be much help. Similarly, employees look up to their managers or supervisors for that direction. Seeing them immersed in their tasks and being responsive to the queries of the team members, other employees also feel the need to contribute and engage. This in turn creates an environment of collaboration and continuous learning.
Develop a learning blueprint
Begin by isolating the workplace goals that the company aspires to achieve. The plan needs to be such that it supports these aims and is actionable. Moreover, plan according to the availability of resources. Another key aspect to keep in mind is that the strategies devised should be employee-centric. After all, it is they who are going to learn from it so if it is not compliant with their needs, then it won't succeed.
Prioritize the learners
Establish an individualized learning plan with employees to better identify what they wish to learn. This practice will help training managers to stay on top of the skill gap and employee demands. At the same time, employees will also feel included in the developmental process.
From here on, companies can pinpoint the specificities of their required continuous learning model type for the workplace. They can hold team workshops, subscription-based professional resources, self-paced online courses, or webinars accordingly. Finally, create a learning 'task-force' that will enable the learners to collaborate better on the topic.
Continuous learning in the workplace is an investment for both the employees and the organizations. It shows that the success of any company is directly dependent upon the success of the individual employees, hence, it has made the workplace a sustainable place. It incorporates learning in such a way that is both engaging and at the same time respectful of the work-life balance of the employees. All in all, continuous learning is a must-have investment for modern workplaces.