Learning doesn’t end after we throw our caps in the air during graduation. Not only do employers now encourage professional development, they expect it. The habit of continuous learning is proving to be essential for employees to achieve career growth.
What is continuous learning?
The habit of continuous learning is part of an individual’s ongoing professional life both at work and beyond and refers to the ongoing development of skills, abilities, and knowledge through various avenues. It is essential for success in today’s marketplace for both employees and companies alike.
The habit of continuous learning can be developed at both the individual and organisational levels.
On an individual level, people are innately motivated to continuously learn and improve and thus take total control of their overall development as a person. At an organisational level, employers have a vital role to play in shaping their employees and expanding their staff members’ skill sets.
For many employees professional development is one the things they value most.
More managers today feel that employees need continuous learning just to keep up with the duties and functions of their jobs. However, while employers want to see their workers acquire more professional knowledge and skills, few provide the resources or tools to do so.
Only a few employers partner with a college or university to offer in-class professional development to their employees.
Some employers already provide financial support for education, especially as scholarships or grants designed for the traditional master’s or doctorate degree. Formal education options like these are a wise human resource investment for companies looking to become industry leaders.
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Employees feel happier at their jobs when their employers care about their success and goals beyond the company and this in turn raises productivity. Younger employees, especially millennials, highly value workplaces that focus on mentorship and help them reach new heights in their career.
Supporting their career development in this way unambiguously communicates to your employees that their employers actually cares about them and is not just looking to take their labour, time and passion without giving back anything beyond the necessary financial compensation.
Due to the demands of today’s constantly shifting business environment, some companies no longer feel as responsible for their employees, assuming most will leave within five years. While people do move from job to job more quickly in today’s economy, the companies that are deliberately fostering the habit of continuous learning are enjoying higher retention rates and more success.
Also, it is worth keeping in mind that higher-skilled workers are unsurprisingly more productive, compared to lower-skilled workers who waste time and cost businesses money through errors. The more trained your employees are, the more efficient they are likely to be in the production process.
It is necessary for retaining top talent
Lack of opportunities for advancement or growth is one of the main reasons employees leave their jobs. Once people hit this glass ceiling, their motivation gets deflated and they start plotting their way out of the job, especially if they are highly skilled. High-achieving, ambitious employees cite career development support as a key priority when looking for a new job, but don’t always get it.
Improving is much easier than replacing
Replacing an employee is still a hectic venture for many companies. Whenever that employers do need to let someone go, it is not only a tedious process but a costly one too: costs include severance pay, unemployment taxes and the loss of valuable time and energy incurred looking for a replacement. It gets even worse if there is some kind of litigation involved in the process.
It therefore makes sense to choose to spend money elevating your current employees as opposed to hiring new ones by providing financial support for education and other career development avenues.
Individuals need to stay updated through a variety of learning opportunities, you can take the following approaches towards continuous learning to build new knowledge and skills: like
reading books, magazines, articles, etc.;
attending industry talks and seminars;
enrolling in online courses and degrees;
watching videos and listening to podcasts;
undertaking challenging assignments and roles;
asking for help whenever something is unclear to you;
observing others who are more experienced in a particular area;
learning by the good old method of trial and error;
practicing and applying the new skills on the job;
tracking one’s own progress over time through self-analysis, and;
asking for feedback from others and working towards improvement.
As mentioned earlier, organisations have a pivotal role is supporting their employees to develop a habit of continuous learning. Companies can invest in:
professional development workshops;
seminars and talks by industry leaders;
off-site training and team building activities;
programs offered by colleges and universities, and;
sponsoring employees to attend industry events.
How to encourage others to adopt the habit of continuous learning
Organisations can do the following to enhance their employees’ knowledge and skill sets:
promoting a culture of continuous learning, in which the company’s top leaders and managers consistently encourage employees to take time for professional development;
providing relevant resources to employees, including computers, journals, articles, access to online courses, formal classroom training and a comfortable learning environment;
encouraging knowledge sharing and idea creation among employees through hackathons, competitions and innovation grants for whatever brilliant ideas they come up with;
exposing employees to social media and other relevant knowledge platforms, and;
rewarding the employees who develop and maintain the habit of continuous learning.
Continuous learning benefits individuals by growing their knowledge and skills so they don’t stagnate. The same can be said for organisations that foster a culture of learning.
When employees get to look at their work through the lens of new information and ideas, it sparks new and creative ways to complete work or deliver a better product and this beneficial for the whole organisation.