No one wants to get stuck in a rut at work or in their personal life. Learning new skills and knowledge plays a key part in driving personal and professional growth in a consistent way. That’s where continuous learning comes in.
Continuous learning is the process of learning new knowledge or skills throughout your personal life and professional career. Constant and consistent self-development helps us navigate new and changing environments by expanding our skillset to react to opportunities.
The great thing about continuous learning is that it can take many shapes. Let’s dive deeper into the many different forms of continuous learning, what the benefits of it are for the learner and your organization, and how to implement it in your workplace.
Different forms of continuous learning
There are many different forms of continuous learning. For instance, taking a course in the evenings on a topic that personally interests you. It can also consist of casual social learning through your network or upskilling at work through an online learning platform like GoSkills.
Some of the different types of continuous learning are:
- Formal - any diplomas, degrees, or certificates are considered formal learning, which can be done through polytechs, universities, or course providers.
- Social learning - any learning that happens in a social context through observation or direct instruction.
- Self-directed - which covers any learning a person does through analyzing skill gaps and working to increase knowledge without guidance.
- Personal - any learning (both formal and informal) a person does in their personal life, often tied to passion projects or interests. Are you a creative person? Doing a design course in the evenings would be personal continuous learning.
- Professional - learning that’s done at a workplace, which can be done in different ways such as ad-hoc or social learning or in a more formal way through a learning management system.
- Informal - any learning that doesn’t have a clear set of rules around it, such as ad-hoc learning from videos you watch on social media or learning by trial and error. Social learning and informal learning are closely related as usually social learning takes place in a non-formal setting.
Benefits of continuous learning
We’ve all had that yearning to learn new skills at some point during our careers — whether it’s wanting to focus on a different topic of interest for a while to grow your professional expertise or improving on your existing skillset.
Continuous learning supports growth, both on a professional level as well as a personal level. Lifelong learning is good for your health, your wallet, and your social life, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Reading, even for a short period of time, reduces stress levels, and learning difficult new skills later in life is associated with improved memory. Research done in 2006 suggests a year of formal education can add more than half a year to a person’s lifespan.
Other benefits of continuous learning include an often higher paycheck over the course of a person’s career, more resilience in coping with an ever-changing world, and an overall more fulfilling life.
Not convinced yet that continuous learning is the right investment for your organization? Here are some other benefits of continuous learning for both your employees and your organization:
Increasing personal performance and competence at work
The more you know, the more confident you feel in your role, right? If your employees feel they’re lacking the skills needed to perform their job properly, it’s likely their performance will suffer as a result.
Providing continuous learning opportunities based on skill-gaps analyses and encouraging learning new skills will help you to avoid that vicious cycle and improve the workplace culture at the same time.
Skill and knowledge improvement will help your staff work towards milestones and potential promotions. At the same time, preparing for the unexpected may sound pessimistic, but especially in the current climate it’s important to be able to change tack quickly and continuous learning helps employees to be more agile.
Enables skill sharing
Not all professional continuous development needs to be formal either. Learning from colleagues or in a team setting helps to reflect and improve on practices.
One of the most helpful ways to create a learning culture at your workplace is to enable skill-sharing among your employees. It’s a cost-effective way to have your initial investment in professional development create a greater return too.
Learning new skills and knowledge is beneficial all-round. Things we learn outside of the workplace (in personal passion projects for instance) are often transferable skills that can be helpful in your employee’s professional career as well.
Sporting activities that employees do in their own time, especially team sport, may for instance teach people how to better work together both on the field and at work.
Increased employee contribution
If you create an environment in which your employees learn more skills, they’re more likely to be able to contribute more to your organization. Someone who’s been learning about leadership in a course run through your organization, may be able to assist their manager in leading the team while the first-in-charge is on leave for instance.
That increases flexibility and improves working conditions.
Continuous learning helps both your organization and your staff to remain relevant in their fields. This in turn creates a more robust company and workforce that is able to withstand storms such as global pandemics or financial crises.
The investment you make into your employees’ learning and development outweighs the cost of having to hire and onboard new employees. High employee turnover is expensive business, with some studies saying the cost of one employee leaving an organization could be as high as $25,000.
Investing in continuous learning for your employees creates a better work culture, which in turn means staff is less likely to leave. This saves your organization money.
A better work culture
If you show your employees that their personal and career development is worth investing in, your staff will feel more valued. This means they’re more likely to do a good job and stay in the job for longer. Which in turn, saves you money, as mentioned above.
Ways to incorporate continuous learning
Promoting continuous learning in your businesses is beneficial to both your organization and your staff for all the reasons mentioned above. Before you start rolling it out as part of your learning and development strategy, it’s important to have a handle on how and when learning takes place currently within your organization.
This should cover both formal learning and informal learning.
Creating a road map will help to determine where training and learning opportunities are missing. Once those gaps are identified, it’s a good idea to talk to your staff to get their input on what they would like to see as part of a continuous learning strategy for your organization.
Are they keen on more formal learning opportunities or would they prefer more time to do informal learning on their own? There are many different ways of learning, both face-to-face and online through an LMS. It’s important to give your employees the options to mold their learning experience to what suits them.
There are a few easy ways to make continuous learning a key aspect of your company’s culture. You could introduce into your employee benefits package an hour or more of paid time a week in which your employees are free to read books, do online courses, watch informative videos online, or practice skills.
Gamification can play an important role in creating a habit among your employees to continue their learning, for instance through reward schemes and creating clear milestones on their path to learning a new skill. GoSkills is one platform that offers a rich LMS with gamification features integrated.
You could also schedule experts from within your industry to come and talk or run seminars at your organization. You could pay for your staff’s membership for industry associations or include a stipend in your employee’s package to pay for attending conferences.
Wrapping it up
What’s not to like about continuous learning? Creating a culture of continuous learning fosters growth within your organization that can easily transcend to your employee’s personal lives.
If your employees are encouraged to learn new skills on a daily or weekly basis while at work, they may feel more encouraged to take up new skills in their own time.
That process of continuous learning can in turn be beneficial to their performance at work. As a result, encouraging lifelong learning is beneficial to both your organization and your employees — an investment well worth making.
Are you ready for your employees to learn new skills and knowledge in a fun and bite-sized way? Try GoSkills out today for free.