Every business owner and manager knows how important it is to be able to adapt to an unexpected situation. But are you really arming yourself and your employees with the best tools to handle the future? In this article, we’ll talk about exactly why creating a continual learning environment is critical to your company’s success – no matter how big or small it is.
For starters, 94% of global employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. In an era dubbed “The Great Resignation”, this is one clear and simple reason to be proactive about worker learning. And with an ever-increasing level of automation, it’s more important than ever for companies to upskill their employees in key, irreplaceable areas like creativity and abstract thinking.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is Continuous Learning?
- Benefits to the Organization
- Benefits to the Employee
- Types of Learning
- How to Foster a Continuous Learning Culture
Looking to create an online training program within your organization or want to sell your online training directly to organizations? Discover how Thinkific can help. Book a call with our Solutions team now!
What is Continuous Learning?
Continuous learning is the process of intentionally expanding our skills and knowledge for personal, professional, and organizational improvement. The most classic example of continuous learning is when an employee learns new hard skills, enabling them to gradually move up to more complex and challenging roles. Continuous learning also includes the development of soft skill sets such as leadership, management, collaboration, and more.
Organizational training is effective in any area of business including onboarding, sales, customer service, technical skills, and equity and diversity. No matter what industry you’re in, there are many great reasons to invest in employee training. Here’s why:
Benefits to the Organization
Stay at the Top
A learning workforce is a stronger one. Investing in workers and management ensures their continued value and capabilities. Continuous learning helps to:
- Identify existing skills gaps
- Pinpoint learning opportunities
- Refresh employee critical thinking and problem solving skills
- Maintain industry relevance
- Foster a culture of collaboration and innovation
- Invite external perspectives and ideas
- Create a more responsive and proactive organization
An environment that encourages continual learning is necessary when it comes to retaining your best and brightest. Thanks in part to the Great Resignation, employees increasingly want careers where they can learn, grow, and embrace a healthy work-life-fun balance. If you offer those employees the opportunity for career development while staying with your company, you may be able to avoid the cost of attracting and training their replacements.
This doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging existing employees to advance up the ladder or join the management team, either. What many may want is a lateral change to a different area of the company. In fact, employees with opportunities for internal mobility stay at their jobs almost twice as long as those without.
Recruit the Best
Companies that support ongoing learning are much more attractive to the newest additions to the workforce. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 76% of Gen Z believe learning is the key to a successful career. A focus on continuous learning also implies a willingness to re-examine assumptions, values, and policies – an attractive prospect to a generation that’s not shy about demanding better equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Benefits to the Employee
Of course, a well-designed system for continuous learning isn’t just for the good of the company. For individuals, the opportunity to update knowledge and skills provides many professional benefits:
Professional Development: Moving On Up
For people looking to obtain a promotion or wage increase, updating their skill set is one of the best ways to achieve those goals. From hard skills like computer programming or an industry-specific certification to soft skills like leadership training, engaging in continuous learning shows management they’re willing to go the extra mile to improve.
You’re Simply The Best
Even if they’re not currently pursuing a promotion, continuous learning will ensure employees are always at the top of their game. New software updates? Industry best practices and trends? In a fast-moving world, there is always something new to learn.
Stronger Culture, Happier Workers
Because continuous learning often occurs in a team setting, it’s a great opportunity for colleagues and their managers to practice closer collaboration, whether in-person or virtual. It can also provide topics for discussion across teams or departments that do not often work together. Over time, the organization’s focus on continuous learning will foster a more connected company culture.
It’s also been shown that workers who have a positive experience with job training have overall higher job satisfaction. That’s because it gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment, with a clear path forward. When employees are interested and engaged, it leads to better performance.
Types of Learning
This is the classic form of corporate training. Usually held in-person, synchronous professional development includes lectures, instructor-led exercises, lunch-and-learns, and hands-on workshops. Formal learning can also take place online in the form of university, college, or trades courses with recorded lectures and assigned readings. Formal learning is sometimes followed by some kind of assessment or test.
Often virtual or online, self-directed learning is completed at the pace and convenience of the student. Common examples of self-guided learning include onboarding, human resources, or health and safety modules. Globally, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, which is why a self-directed online course is a great idea. This method also avoids barriers such as time differences, multiple office locations, and space limitations.
Employees learn as much about their job from their colleagues and managers as from any formal training or courses. That’s why it’s critical to foster positive social learning (also known as informal learning) by creating spaces where workers feel comfortable interacting with each other outside of direct work situations. Many organizations use programs like Slack, where channels can be created for group conversations on various topics such as industry trends or the latest workshop. Consider also implementing a mentorship program where workers can interact one-on-one with a colleague or manager, holding each other accountable to their respective learning goals.
Hybrid Learning: The Best of All Worlds
Hybrid learning, also known as blended learning, combines digital media with classic educator-led formats to create a plan that suits the needs of the student. For example, a department-wide lecture could be followed by assigned readings to be discussed by participants on the company’s online forum.
How to Foster a Continuous Learning Culture
Like all the best ideas, continuous learning at an organization should be strategic. Before booking those lunch-and-learns or virtual speakers, take a step back and consider what business goals you’re looking to achieve in the short and long term. The ideal learning format for an organization that wants to achieve ISO certification will differ from one hoping for a stronger culture of cutting-edge innovation.
Approach the process the way you would when designing a buyer’s journey. Evaluate your workers’ current skill levels and create a learning journey that’s integrated with both their interests and your strategic objectives. By asking for input early, you’ll have better buy-in from managers and employees. Don’t forget to ask for feedback after implementation, too.
Check out our specific tips on creating an online employee training program.
Make Learning Accessible
The key to a positive learning environment is good instructional design. When planning learning journeys for your workers, make sure you’re using Universal Design for Learning to provide flexible options so everyone can participate fully. The more accessible and inclusive your plan is, the higher your level of participation and engagement rate will be.
For example, while most employees would welcome the opportunity to learn at work, what they don’t want is after-hours unpaid homework. Treat continuous learning as an investment by building expected employee learning time into their regular workload. This also ensures you’re remaining respectful of their work-life balance, while avoiding learning barriers like at-home distractions or obligations.
Make it fun!
Nobody loves a boring learning experience. Make your workers’ continuous education fun by adding interactive components. For example, learners who participate in social features such as Q&As or learning groups watch 30x more hours of learning content than those who don’t.
To add motivation and interest, consider adding elements of gamification such as learning incentives, individual or collective goals, or milestone tracking. By measuring and celebrating learning outcomes, you’re showing employees that you value their progress and dedication to your new continuous learning environment.
Finally, back up your learning program with real-world rewards. Whether it’s through bonuses, promotions, interesting projects, or creative control, show your workers their hard work is having a tangible, positive effect on the company.
Get Management On Board
We instinctively look to our leaders when things change in our workplaces. Before you implement any major changes, gather your team leaders and managers to explain the purpose behind your new learning initiatives – and encourage them to participate, too.
Adjust and Repeat
Don’t forget the continuous part of continuous learning. Ongoing improvement is necessary to continue the forward momentum of your new employee education program.
Ask your team how they feel about the learning process. Allow for anonymous feedback to gather an honest view of areas for improvement. Talk to your managers and ask what they’re hearing that you might not be. Then, make the necessary adjustments for next year.
Looking to create an online employee training program within your organization or want to sell your online training to organizations? Book a call with our Solutions team and let’s chat!