The idea of continuous learning is one that, paradoxically, seems to make perfect sense and still merits examination. It seems that many businesses still seem to appreciate the concept, but not the practice. Let’s look at the real value of continuous learning and see how it can benefit organizations—not in the abstract, but in the daily routines of your enterprise.
Defining continuous learning is straightforward enough: in the words of Reanna Mardinger, “Continuous learning is training your brain to think of angles and solutions that would have otherwise gone unthought of.”
Again, it makes sense—but how do can you train your brain to do this? Mardinger layers in some specifics: seeking out new training, connecting with more experienced professionals on LinkedIn, pursuing new articles or blogs, learning from subject matter experts in your field, and more. She also includes some broader ideas like asking questions and requesting feedback, and creating learning plans for yourself.
These practices allow employees to constantly refresh and improve their base of knowledge, and avoid becoming complacent with what (and whom) they know. Mardinger correctly states that this kind of complacency “is the enemy of lifelong learning and creates a deadweight within organizations.”
Before we get too far into the ‘how’ of continuous learning, let’s add some data to the rationale behind why your organization should commit to it. As Steffan Maier reports, Deloitte has quantified several of the benefits of a culture of continuous learning. They point out that companies that have this culture “are 46 percent more likely to be first to market… experience 37 percent higher productivity… [and] are 92 percent more likely to innovate.”
Mardinger adds some figures on how employees feel about continuous learning, by way of Forbes’ research: “55% of employees agree that career growth is more important than compensation, and simultaneously 47% of people feel dissatisfied by learning and development initiatives in their workplace.” Mardinger reminds us “how pricey it is to lose talent” as we consider the implications of this last statistic.
So, we have a good idea of what continuous learning is, and we can see the benefits to an organization’s bottom line and employee satisfaction. All of these give us a good picture of how important creating a culture of continuous learning should be in L&D initiatives and organizations as a whole. Let’s now pursue a thorough understanding of how you can foster this kind of culture.
Michelle Eggleston Schwartz articulates the importance of employees knowing about the training resources available to them. “While organizations may offer training opportunities, employees may be completely unaware of these offerings,” she writes, and argues that L&D professionals should not formulate training in an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Visibility of training offerings, through email, newsletters, and posters in common areas, is necessary for employees to take advantage of those offerings. After all, nobody can benefit from opportunities without awareness of them.
Schwartz also promotes connection of personal development to company goals, writing that “Showing employees how their role ties to the organization’s strategic goals can broaden an employee’s perspective and create more engagement in their job.” This not only helps employee motivation in pursuing training, but helps them see their value to the company directly—creating not only perspective, but more pride in their position and the “current and future benefits” that they will join the organization in creating.
Tuomas Syrjanen and Hanno Nevanlinna contribute the idea of “Break[ing] your bubbles” to the creation of a culture of continuous learning, explaining that while “most companies contain huge amounts of knowledge… employees operate in small bubbles, with easy access to close contacts but little access to anything outside their bubbles.”
The key to breaking down these silos between functions? Closely examining the kinds of knowledge that each employee has, and making cross-enterprise learning easier through AI-powered tools and heightened searchability. Their solution, Bubble Burster, is a great example of the kinds of tools that can help an organization use in-company digital footprints to better understand their personnel and provide them with knowledge that is “freeform, searchable, and restricted to a predefined taxonomy.”
Find ways to make marketing professionals able to learn about production techniques, and vice versa. Try not to assume that someone’s role (their taxonomy, as Syrjanen and Nevanlinna call it) determines what they ‘need to know.’ Make knowledge accessible across roles, and then, as Schwartz urges, make sure that employees know about the access you’ve provided.
Finally, Reanna Mardinger includes a point about mobile learning that deserves our attention. Tying mobile learning’s inherent on-the-go capabilities to microlearning, she reminds us that “critical information delivered in short relevant bursts can drastically improve learning outcomes and ensure that information is retained.”
This is a focus not just on the act of making knowledge available and connecting employees to the resources—it’s a focus on what kind of resources you create. Microlearning, and microvideo in particular, is seeing a rise in popularity and efficacy throughout the business world.
Be sure to consider creating short, bite-sized learning modules for your employees as you pursue the creation of a culture of continuous learning. After all, the sharing of knowledge, and focusing that sharing throughout the organization, will take some effort to accomplish; you certainly don’t want to take all of the right steps and then share only old or less effective learning materials.
What is a culture of continuous learning? It’s an organization-wide commitment to never giving up on advancing the company’s goals through increasing the availability of the knowledge that matters to the goals of individuals and the enterprise as a whole. It’s encouragement to keep broadening one’s perspective, and tying that perspective to more than short-term, siloed work.
A commitment to continuous learning is a future-focused dedication to adaptability, heightened productivity, and more innovation. How does your organization approach learning? Would you say you operate in a culture of continuous learning? If not, where might you start as you develop one? What kinds of knowledge would you like more of your employees to have and pursue?
About the writer
Stephen R. Ware is a certified paralegal and a Producer. He serves as a blogger and copywriter for Squigl.