How Can Companies Foster Lifelong Learning?

Change is inevitable. Whether it is your career, family structure, the type of books you read, or your hair colour, change does and will happen.  As this occurs, the necessity to reinvent oneself becomes more evident. You learn new things and you continue to learn to adapt to change. It is important for companies to support their employees to learn in a work environment the same as they would in their personal lives. Let them expand their skill set which will lead to improved productivity and engagement. A culture where lifelong learning is valued leads to stronger and more innovative organizations. How can companies support the kind of learning that contributes to their employees’ career success?

  1. Push Boundaries. This might sound counterproductive but I don’t mean push boundaries to the point that an employee will want to leave. Encourage growth that goes beyond an individual’s comfort level. Provide opportunities for employees to take on what might seem like intimidating leadership roles for different tasks. Have someone who tends to hide on the sidelines present at the next team meeting. As much as we leverage people’s strengths during projects, it is equally important to tackle areas where your employees’ skills need improvement. Companies tend to fall into the trap of only using their employees’ obvious strengths, when there’s often a wholly unexplored side to each individual which can make them not only a stronger asset to the company, but also a better version of themselves.
  2. Stop Working. Give employees the time to reinvent themselves outside of billable hours. Provide time each week to let them work on side projects that further develops their skills, master new technology and gain knowledge beyond what is typically experienced. Employers who support learning outside of project work have a better chance of leading their employees down the path to success. It is beneficial for both the employee and the employer to have dedicated personal development time.
  3. Play. What good is a brain if it isn’t given a break? Take minutes each day to “play” to refresh the brain. It is far too easy to be immersed in tasks, and not take a moment to give your brain a break. Encourage employees to take the time to play, and refrain from clock-watching hostile work environments. Breaks translate to improved learning and productivity. Provide opportunities for employees to play. Really play. This doesn’t have to happen daily but schedule team building events a few times a year to improve individuals’ creativity and problem solving skills. It’s amazing how a fun activity, such as archery tag, improves strategy, communication and cooperation. Dealing with challenges during fun events carries over in job functions. Learning does not always have to come from a classroom; playful experience is also an excellent teacher.

Ongoing learning and growth is necessary for successful careers. Advances in technology force workers to continue to learn new skills in order to remain current and relevant. Organizations need to keep up with our evolving world and one essential way to do so is to support lifelong learning. The benefits of supported learning to organizations alone are abundant, from improved productivity and efficiency to having a company that is up to date with technology. Environments where learning is encouraged, beyond classes and mentorship programs, leads to happier, healthier and engaged employees. An individual’s career success through lifelong learning means future and continued success for an organization.

 

Written by Elaine Balante

Originally posted in LinkedIn