The world is being constantly bombarded by huge amounts of data and information. Results of a recent study, “Data Never Sleeps,” are startling - every minute, a huge volume of data is created: an estimated 347,222 tweets, 284,772 snapchats, 300 hours of new video uploaded on YouTube, 4,166,667 Facebook likes and much more data than we can think of. 1 Experts estimate that the total body of knowledge now doubles every five years. And it’s not just data—there are corresponding tools, technologies, apps, and updates to familiar products. This signals the need to continuously learn and acquire new knowledge, skills and attitudes to keep pace with change. After all, the whole plot is around ‘survival of the fittest’- the better learned you are, the fitter you are!
“Continuous learning” refers to the ongoing development of skills, abilities, and knowledge through different means--this is part of an individual’s ongoing professional life both at work and beyond.2 Continuous learning can be triggered at both the personal and organizational levels. On a personal level, people are intrinsically motivated to continuously learn and improve and thus take complete ownership of their overall development. At an organizational level, employers play a pivotal role in shaping their people and expanding their workforce’s skill sets.
Continuous learning for individuals
Individuals can take the following approaches towards continuous learning to build new knowledge and skills:
- Staying updated through a variety of learning opportunities like reading, attending talks and seminars, taking online courses or watching videos.
- Undertaking challenging assignments, roles, and job rotations which they were not exposed to earlier.
- Asking for help when something is unclear.
- Observing others who are more experienced in a particular area
- Learning by trial and error.
- Practicing and applying the new skills on the job.
- Tracking one’s own progress over time through self-analysis.
- Asking for feedback from others and working towards improvement.
How organizations can encourage continuous learning
Organizations can adopt the following practices to enhance their employees’ knowledge and skill sets:
- Promoting a culture of continuous learning, in which top leaders and other agents of culture encourage employees to take time for professional development.
- Providing relevant resources to employees, including computers, journals, articles, access to online courses, formal classroom training and a comfortable learning environment.
- Encouraging knowledge sharing and idea creation among employees.
- Exposing employees to social media and other relevant platforms.
- Rewarding employees/teams who maintain the spirit of continuous learning.
Investing in learning can never go wrong. Practising a culture of continuous learning offers many benefits both employees and organizations.
Employees who take a continuous learning approach benefit from improved performance and productivity. The better equipped employees are, the better they can perform. This increased performance allows them to contribute more to the success of organization. In turn, a sense of providing value to the organization can enhance self-worth. Ultimately, this better performance, improved productivity and enhanced self worth will also make employees more engaged. In addition, employees who are well-equipped with in-demand knowledge and skills have more career options available to them.
For organizations, the culture of continuous learning will create empowered employees who contribute to the achievement of business goals. Workers with a rich repertoire of knowledge shared across the organization can offer a competitive advantage, making it easier for the business to attract and retain the right employees.
To remain ahead in today’s complex and competitive world, embracing continuous learning as a way of life is a good proposition. After all, as Albert Einstein stated, “once we stop learning, we start dying.”