Continuous Learning - A prerequisite for a successful career

Author: Pavithra Urs
Date: Aug 31, 2020

Once you stop learning, you start dying – Albert Einstein

Today 's world is technologically advanced  and yet surprisingly vulnerable which means we all need additional abilities and supple skills. Acquiring those is possible ONLY through continuous learning. On an individual level, people need to be innately motivated to continuously learn and thus take total control of their overall development. At an organizational level, employers have a vital role in providing a continuous learning environment to create a smarter workforce. Learning gives endless opportunities on how to approach the rapidly changing environment.
Continuous Learning can happen at two levels: Individual and Organizational
How can Individuals adopt Continuous learning?
  • First, recognize your preferred learning style- Are you a visual learner, kinesthetic learner, auditory learner or reading/writing learner and pursue the favorite approach?
  • Make learning a habit that helps you to explore and grasp the knowledge about all the things that change continuously and inevitably
  • Set learning goals and push yourself to achieve them in the desired time frame
  • Attend trainings and certifications relevant to your profession / interests
  • Read books, articles and blogs related to your profession
  • Learn from experts/mentors in your field
  • Seek feedback from experienced co-workers
  • Apply lessons learnt from past experiences to a new situation
  • Try new ways of doing things every day. It yields powerful results
  • Watch TED talks, listen to podcasts
  • Take responsibility of your own learning- Create a learning plan for yourself and execute them with Why, When and How questions
  • Adopt blended learning approach which involves online, in-person, webinars, training, seminars, workshops which broaden learners experience.
How can organizations provide a continuous learning environment?
It may become too monotonous for every employee to stick to one job all the time. It is because of the fact that there is no real opportunity for them to learn something new. Organizations need to make sure that employees  enjoy continuous opportunities to learn and that employees don't have to wait an unreasonable amount of time for those opportunities.
  • Companies to help employees in developing personal mastery by encouraging reflection programs,job rotations and cross training.
  • Encourage fast track growth. Ambition is one of the strongest elements for continuous learning.
  • Create Social Learning platforms- for e.g.: Lunch and learn: This is one of the easiest ways to begin fostering a culture of learning that is collaborative and engaging. It just easily works when you have employees congregate together with their lunch to learn together and is a low-pressure way to induce learning.
  • Mandate personal development goals as a part of performance reviews- foster self-learning by establishing personal development goals that can help the organization and can also add some valuable skills to the employee’s resume.
  • Encourage learning through rewards- use  gamification  to encourage employees to win badges and move up on your company’s learning leaderboards.
  • Design creative Employee engagement programs. Make learning fun. Once learning begins to feel like an enjoyable part of their workflow, they’ll start participating more than they realize.
  • It all starts from Leaders setting examples. It yields to more efficient leadership, as they become excited by learning and trying out new solutions and ideas and end up inspiring others to follow their path.
  • Promote internal career progression and identify certain individuals move into subject matter area. This is a great way to encourage them to take the task of learning upon themselves. 
  • Provide financial support with retention clause for education, scholarships or grants designed for master’s or doctorate degree. Formal education options like these are a wise human resource investment for companies looking to become industry leaders.
  • UGC (User Generated Content) - By inviting employees to chip in their own content, they not only begin to participate, but they get to facilitate the conversation surrounding a project without  trainers needing to be in the driver’s seat . It’s a fantastic way to garner creativity and enthusiasm from your employees.
  • Develop Role based trainings, first-time manager sessions, emphasize importance of soft skills, develop client interfacing programs.
  • Invest more in L&D and in LMS tools. LinkedIn Learnings, HBDI, MBTI trainings are some of the wise investments to encourage continuous learning that leads to creation of a smarter workforce.
Why continuous learning at all?

Positive culture shift occurs when you see people owning and driving the learning process themselves. Continuous learning also allows employees to come up with new ideas and innovative solutions to the modern-day problems and  conflicts  which they constantly face at the workplace.
  • Competitive Edge - With everyone internally maintaining a healthy level of competition, you’ll see your workforce challenging each other and more importantly, themselves to constantly be reaching for improvement. 
  • Contributing their own ideas offer your employees a seat at the table and makes them feel seen and valued.
  • Retains top talent. People become reluctant to leave  an organization when you invest in their growth, development, and success. With growth and development being one of the main reasons people leave their job, providing learning opportunities will close this gap
  • Continuous learning enhances the cognitive ability of an individual, and  increased problem-solving ability and memory
  • In a rapidly changing workplace, providing continual learning for each employee helps them to adapt quickly. Be it new technologies, practices, industry developments etc.
  • Avoids short sightedness - Myopia in the business world  is a killer. It leads to a stagnant workforce, causing your business to fall behind competitors. Through continual learning, your employees are constantly pushing your business forward by learning new skills.
  • Encouraging a continuous  learning culture within your business  means you’re training your employees for future opportunities in your organization. Hiring from within saves time, money, resources, and reduces employee turnover.
  • Nurturing is better than replacing - Replacing an employee is hectic and expensive for many companies. Hence it makes sense to identify employees’ aspirations and spend on learning
  • Continuous learning helps one see their weak spots. It augments ones’ emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills and conflict management skills. 
According to a survey:
  • 54% of employees  have said that it is essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work-life in order to keep up with the changes in the workplace
  • 70% of employees have also expressed how development opportunities and job-related training influenced their decision to stay at their job
  • Continuous learners are 46% more likely to be first to market
  • They experience 37% higher productivity
  • They are 92% more likely to innovate
Continuous learning is not just a great methodology for professionals to stay updated in an ever-changing workplace, it is also an essential tool for organizations to remain innovative, relevant, and ahead of their competitors. However, in order for it to work, it needs to become a lifestyle that comes naturally. And that takes time, effort, and vigilance. But once achieved the results are easily palpable. Even though culture change has to start at the top, you will know your organization has made a successful transition to a culture of continuous learning when you see employees driving their own independent quests for knowledge. Youneed every moving piece to be evolving competitively, mainly your people. You need your workforce and company values to be unified around a learner centric goal. That will measure your actual success.
About Author: Pavithra Urs is an Enterprise HR Strategic Leader. A Human capital investor. She works as an Associate Director for People Operations and heads L&D function for a prestigious Media & Entertainment company. Bringing along rich global experience in her field for 13+ yrs., she acts as first-level counsel to CXOs and Senior Leadership. In her wider role that extends beyond work, she is an HR columnist and writer, Coach and Mentor, Successful Women Leader uplifting and protecting the interests of women @workplace. She is an avid blogger, influencer, speaker, and a professional member of many HR professional organizations.]  
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