Continuous learning is one of the hottest trends in elearning right now, and it’s not just because it’s a new way to learn. Continuous learning is a response to the modern workplace: things change constantly, including in technology, staff, and company direction.
The modern workforce is curious: they grew up with a world of information on their fingertips and read more than previous generations. They love being able to pursue their curiosity and find learning things stimulating. Continuous learning can help companies foster the lifelong learning instinct in their workers. You can trust them to keep up and be motivated to learn if you give them a good reason and the tools to do so.
The research supports this: the Pew Research Center found 87% of workers think it’s essential to develop new skills throughout their life to keep up with the changing workplace.
Tammy Carr, eLogic’s very own CLO, is a big advocate of continuous learning. She says, “The most beneficial result of creating a culture of continuous learning is an educated enthusiastic employee work force trained and ready to “step up” in succession planning and expansion needs for the company.”
What is Continuous Learning?
Continuous learning is a method of enabling learners to have learning become a part of working; a way to adapt to changes by putting time aside to keep up with them with new skills and knowledge.
One of the most important aspects of continuous learning is time. Learners need time on a regular basis to seek out new knowledge that will benefit their work. Unfortunately, the average worker has very little time to dedicate to learning, so allowing learning to be a priority in your workplace culture will help them take advantage of it.
The other important aspect is application. As part of continuous learning, learners will reinforce the training through their work. For example, if a learner spends four hours training on a new technology, as they use it on the job they will continue to watch videos and ask questions to further their learning.
This is something we do naturally to some extent, however, it is also something that can be integrated formally into the culture of the workplace and in course assignments in order to make staff more responsive and flexible.
The actual form of continuous learning can be anything that is normally assigned for training or training that the learners seek out themselves. Anything from video learning to on-the-job learning can fall under the umbrella of continuous learning.
We know that employees desire to learn; to grow professionally. After all, advancing professionally keeps people motivated and stimulated. They will take advantage of continuous learning if they have the tools and time to do so.
If you’re in an industry that’s struggling to keep up with constant changes, there are several ways that continuous learning might benefit your learning strategy.
Create a Workplace that is Responsive to an Ever-Changing World
Keep employees up-to-date by assigning continuous learning on new technology relevant to their field, as well as major software updates, and more.
Understanding the latest technologies in the industry is important to keeping your company future-proof. You don’t want to be left behind as new software and equipment become important tools to learn. Your employees need the time and resources to continue being the top, knowledgeable professionals in their field. Continuous learning can help provide that.
Respond Better to Turnover in Staff
Continuous learning means people are constantly learning relevant skills; therefore, they are more prepared to take on different roles throughout the company. In case of staff turnover, employees will have the knowledge they need to take on responsibilities, get promoted, and prevent loss of efficiency and progress as a result of absent staff.
Even if you aren’t an industry that struggles with staff turnover, cross-trained employees have plenty of benefits:
- They can help out with different roles when employees are out on sick or family leave
- Their broader understanding of the company and adjacent roles can help workers collaborate more effectively
- Their greater understanding of the business will help employees be more creative and contribute to solving problems
Keep Employees Engaged
It’s widely understood that training is a way to keep employees engaged. Forbes lists training as one of the most important factors in engaging workers. It makes them feel like their career is cared about and valued when you allow them to learn new things. It enables them to seek out job advancement within the company. Most classically, and simply, it prevents run-of-the-mill boredom.
By making learning a part of their everyday work lives, employees will be mentally stimulated consistently and motivated to perform better.
Have Learners Better Retain Knowledge
Part of continuous learning is that learners will revisit knowledge multiple times over time as they learn, apply it, and ask questions. Each time a learner revisits knowledge, it reinforces it. Making learning part of the everyday life of workers will mean that they combat the forgetting curve and become more likely to retain knowledge that benefits their working life.
SOME TIPS ON INTEGRATING CONTINUOUS LEARNING IN THE WORKPLACE
Since continuous learning is broad, it can be difficult to know where to start in making your learning culture more receptive to it. Carr also talked to us about some of her advice for companies on continuous learning. Here are some concrete steps to take to begin approaching it.
- Clearly define the skill sets of positions and development paths. While workers want to learn, they may need some direction in what they need to learn. If you make the skill sets of job descriptions publicly available throughout the company, you’ll motivate employees to learn the skills of positions they would like to move into. Carr suggested: “Provide clear paths for development to the employees, make the training have a variety of styles, depth, and challenges, and most importantly, reward at every step of development. Rewards can be as easy as certificates, letters of encouragement from mentors, new name badges, or even level accomplishments being shared with all employees in a gaming style assessment”
- From Carr – “The training paths and learning should clearly be tied to detailed development plans that are aligned with organizational goals! Training that provides no tangible value upon completion for either the employee or the business is wasted labor dollars and will be devaluing to the employee. Upon completion provide the WIIFM for every employee.”
- Provide resources. Learners can’t learn if they don’t have access to appropriate courseware or other resources. Make learning available for the important skills in your company, or make funds available to get that training from third parties. Be sure to update learning libraries frequently to reflect industry changes.
- Reward employees. Carr said, “When a learner is rewarded, even in a small way at every accomplishment in the training path, it is invigorating to the individual.”
- Provide time. Make learning a priority. Allow, and even incentivize, employees to block out time for training on their calendar. Better yet, offer company-wide training hours, during which anyone can train consequence-free. Offer recognition or incentives for employees who log lots of training hours.
- Ask employees what they want to learn. More than anyone else, the employee will be most aware of how the technology or standards that affect their role is changing. Ask them what they need to learn, to be sure you are providing the right resources.
Continuous learning is not a trend in the way that microlearning or VR is a trend: it’s an approach to learning that encompasses everything. It’s the lifestyle of lifelong learners. It’s a culture that can be integrated and taught in a workplace. Consider making it part of the learning strategy where you work.