In today’s ever-changing workplace landscape, businesses must take advantage of all the tools in their arsenal in order to stay agile and competitive. Cultivating a culture of continuous learning helps keep you a cut above the rest by equipping your employees to adapt to evolving industry trends, acquire new skills, and ultimately, drive innovation.
What exactly is continuous learning?
When people talk about a culture of continuous learning, they’re referring to a workplace or environment where individual employees and teams are empowered to consistently seek out new knowledge, skills, and insights, as a way of fostering ongoing personal and professional growth directed toward the mission and goals of the organization. This approach values the process of learning as a lifelong journey and renders it part of employees’ daily routine. Ultimately, this is a fantastic approach for encouraging innovation across an organization.
What’s at stake: why a continuous learning culture is so important
Deloitte’s Leading in Learning report shows that continuous learning firms are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. Not to mention, having a culture of continuous learning makes your company a desirable place to work. In the wake of COVID-19, which increased the need for new skills across all industries, employees’ concerns regarding skill-building were piqued by this need: 55% reported feeling more worried, 41% said it took them longer to complete tasks, and 22% acknowledged their job standard had dropped. On the flip side, 47% of employees say their extra training and education helped them advance within their current company, and 94% of employees believe they would stay at a firm longer if there was a meaningful investment in their learning and development.
Fact: a culture and practice of continuous learning attracts top talent—while also helping you retain it. Who knew that treating your talent as a valuable resource that deserves to be upgraded and renewed could make your employees feel appreciated, and by extension, more invested in their work? Not to mention, it’s certainly less expensive than hiring and re-training new employees. The reality is that dismissing the role of learning in your employees’ work is basically like leaving them behind. While people once went to work to learn how to do a particular job, today learning is a central tenet of the job, and a continuous learning approach is integral to the success of your business.
The role of leadership in promoting continuous learning
Those in leadership roles can play a pivotal role in promoting a culture of continuous learning by setting an example through their commitment to learning, as well as by providing resources and opportunities for skill development and fostering an environment where experimentation, curiosity, and knowledge sharing are valued and encouraged. Active support and recognition of learning efforts can and will inspire employees to engage in their self-improvement, which in turn contributes to a more adaptable and innovative business.
Need a little inspiration? Here are a few strategies to help you successfully advocate for continuous learning in your organization:
- Set a positive example. Demonstrate your commitment to learning by actively participating in training programs, sharing what you’ve learned, and proactively seeking out opportunities to expand employees’ knowledge and skillsets.
- Provide resources. Allocate funds and regular time slots (i.e., one set hour weekly) for employees to take part in ongoing learning activities like attending workshops, conferences, and online courses that are relevant to their roles and career growth.
- Adopt a blended approach. Recognize that employees have different learning preferences and schedules—not to mention, some may work remotely while others work onsite, and still others have gone hybrid. Provide a mix of in-person and online learning options to accommodate diverse needs.
- Link learning to performance. Make it clear that learning and skill development directly impact performance reviews and career growth; they are inextricably connected! Create a clear pathway for employees to advance based on their willingness and ability to learn and apply new skills.
- Create learning communities. Establish forums, groups, or workshops where employees can exchange their learning experiences, discuss any challenges they may face, and best of all, share knowledge.
- Continuous feedback. Provide ongoing feedback to employees on their learning progress, helping them identify areas of improvement and celebrate milestones. Go one further and provide opportunities for them to reflect and give feedback as well.
The importance of providing diverse learning opportunities
Continuous learning can take many different forms. The needs of your company can inform how the learning takes place, including what employees learn and why they learn it. That being said, giving employees the autonomy to choose their learning paths based on their interests and career goals helps to foster a sense of ownership over their development and their work quality, the stuff of star employees.
Learning opportunities to consider providing:
- Workshops. Workshops can provide focused and interactive learning experiences that allow employees to acquire new skills, exchange knowledge, and engage in hands-on activities relevant to their roles and professional growth.
- Training programs. By offering structured and comprehensive educational experiences that empower your team to develop and refine their skills, training programs offer dynamic, updated content, encourage active participation, and provide helpful tools for self-assessment and progression tracking.
- Online courses. Online courses provide convenient and flexible access to a wide range of topics and skills, making it easier for employees to learn at their own pace as well as integrate new knowledge directly into their roles.
- Mentoring. Mentoring is an invaluable form of continuous learning: you might pair employees with experienced mentors (i.e., seasoned employees) or coaches who can guide them in their learning journey and offer insights based on their own experiences.
- Knowledge-sharing platforms. Knowledge-sharing platforms like Slack, Yammer, or Microsoft Teams can facilitate the exchange of expertise, best practices, and insights among employees and foster a collaborative environment where learning is an ongoing team effort!
Why cultivating a learning mindset among employees is everything
Cultivating a learning mindset among employees is essential for fostering adaptability, innovation, and sustained growth in our ever-evolving professional landscape.
Stuck on techniques to engage employees? Consider the following:
- Encourage curiosity. Create an environment where curiosity and asking questions is encouraged and facilitated. Leaders can promote a culture of curiosity by regularly asking thought-provoking questions themselves as well as rewarding employees who explore innovative solutions.
- Promote collaboration. Encouraging employees to explore skills outside their immediate job roles is a smart idea, as this promotes cross-functional collaboration and broadens the overall skillset of your workforce.
- Recognize learning achievements. Recognizing, acknowledging, and rewarding learning achievements can help to keep employees engaged by demonstrating the value of their efforts, boosting overall morale, and reinforcing a sense of accomplishment—in turn, this encourages continual enthusiasm for self-improvement. It’s a vibrant cycle!
Bottom line: building a continuous learning culture in your organization is how you get to where you’re going—while cultivating strong, positive relationships along the way.