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Continuous learning: An essential strategy for the modern workplace

Fostering a modern workforce with continuous learning

April 3, 2020 | By: Jonathan Diamond and Emily Chung 

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Companies are facing increased pressure to adapt to the rise of changing technology. One that has an adaptable, modern workforce and is not constrained by traditional role definitions. Now, more than ever, the needs of a modern learner are changing. They’re growing up in a world of information and knowledge that’s accessible right at their fingertips. Being able to indulge their curiosity and pursue new information excites them. At work, they’re more likely to Google a topic than search in a learning management system (LMS) to find information. They also understand that in terms of skills and career growth, they need to expand beyond their current role definitions, connect with professional communities and take charge of their own development.

What does this mean for employers? We have to take a more learner-centered approach to development—one that enables continuous expansion of knowledge and skills to fit the demands of the modern workplace, from onboarding to continuing education for an employee’s entire tenure. And with our expectations across digital experiences rapidly increasing and changing, self-directed development becomes critical. Skills are no longer static, and knowledge and productivity are not confined to traditional job roles. Whether that’s acquiring new skills to meet the demands of a changing market or adopting new technologies—learning becomes a task within a workflow.

61% of executives report challenges in moving their organizations toward external self-directed learning.

Cultivating a continuous learning culture

The role of continuous learning isn’t just a hot trend within corporate learning; it’s becoming the best practice on how to learn—period. And, it ties back to cultivating a learning culture that empowers learners to acquire and share new knowledge rapidly in response to business or technology changes, while moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

A growth mindset encourages social sharing, collaboration and a safe environment to try and fail and try again, all while sharing the experience and best practices in a communal way for others’ benefit. It’s about keeping abreast of industry trends and managers directing and supporting employees’ development, instead of prescribing it. Think coaches, not one-size-fits-all development paths.

When building a continuous learning culture, the following can provide guidelines for success:

  • Manager effectiveness: Managers play a critical role in creating a safe culture for learning and switching to a model where trying and failing is part of successfully moving to a growth mindset.
  • Build skills: Emphasize a blended learning approach that incorporates nontraditional deliverables and curated content from outside of the firewall. Push the importance of learning from others and share knowledge.
  • Change the mindset: Go outside of traditional role definitions. Identify the “what’s in it for me,” or WIIFM, for learners and how continuous learning goals tie to company objectives.
  • Leadership: Leadership must be bought into the continuous learning strategy and see value as part of the organization’s growth and team effectiveness.
  • Technology: Leverage the appropriate technology to build and support your continuous learning community. Adopting community learning technology is not enough without an underlying framework to support success.
  • Recognition and growth: Be sure to reward continuous learning exemplars that are actively contributing to the community. Also, have a clear plan for sustaining growth beyond initial rollout, including how to measure success.

Benefits of continuous learning for your modern workforce

Essentially, continuous learning culture is built on flexibility, scale and agility. It’s centered on the learner and being able to use technology to create their own learning pathways and community. And given today’s exponential rate of technological transition, the need to stay plugged in has never been greater.

Through adoption of a continuous learning program, continuous learning benefits the people first, by creating a safe environment to learn and apply new things, which ultimately benefits the business.

What are the benefits of continuous learning?

  • More engaged, committed workforce that feels enabled in their own development
  • Better able to quickly adapt to changes within the industry and respond to changing customer needs
  • Learners engage with each other to create new content, share knowledge and coach others
  • Learning within the workflow limits time spent “in training” and reduces the need to take people out of their daily jobs
  • Reduced formal training time and builds internal best practices

DevOps and continuous learning connection

Like DevOps, continuous learning starts with a cultural change followed by change management. Both are aiming to solve similar things—making your teams more adaptable to change and collaboration.

Continuous learning is centered in a self-sustaining learning culture that’s supported by professional development and managers. Similar to DevOps, you’re not taking someone out of a workflow—instead, you’re reducing downtime and getting that information right at their fingertips when it’s most critical in terms of real-time application.

DevOps empowers developers to own and manage their software delivery, whereas continuous learning empowers the learners to take ownership of their personal development. It’s not about pushing or pulling, but rather team collaboration and peer-to-peer content development. For learning and development (L&D) departments, it’s working with learners to make sure they have accurate and accessible content when, where and how they need it.

Forging ahead with continuous learning

Through adoption of a continuous learning program, organizations will see the growth of a more engaged, committed workforce that feels enabled in their own development. Learners will engage with each other in this environment to create new content, share knowledge and collaborate on solutions. In turn, organizations will be better equipped to adapt to changes within their industries and respond to changing customer needs.

As industries continue to evolve and transform at an unparalleled rate, having a continuous learning strategy enables the power that lies within each of us, to go beyond what we traditionally think our abilities and limits are and expand our own self-expectations—ultimately leading to increased satisfaction and productivity.

As practice managers of the Learning Solutions practice within TEKsystems Global Services, Emily Chung and Jonathan Diamond oversee a team that drives learning and adoption services within our clients’ organizations. These programs focus on building a future workforce with tomorrow’s skills, upskilling and reskilling current teams, or changing behavior needed to impact productivity.