Why should you keep on learning? You have a college degree, maybe a terminal degree such as MBA or Ph.D. You have a job that you know how to do and you’re good at it. You get a regular paycheck, and, if you’re lucky, have a long-term contract and stock options. Other than your supplier’s new products and services, what is there left to learn?
Learning and work have merged. Izzy Justice, founder and CEO of EQMentor, Inc. writes: “…the successful working professional will not be the one who has accomplished a lot in the past, but the one who is constantly learning.” Whether it’s learning something new, unlearning something old, or learning how to learn, all employees, from front-line technicians to C-suite executives, need to make learning part of their jobs.
You know the trends. Technology is changing the way we work and putting information literally at our fingertips. Globalization is changing where we work and who are our competitors; they could be anywhere in the world and could crop up overnight. A demand for transparency in all institutions has made a high degree of ethics and compliance an essential part of doing business. Expectations of corporate leaders is to do more with less which means that employees need to be smarter about their jobs and how they do them. Networking using social media is breaking down silos and building options for sharing information and know-how but it also is a capability that needs to be developed.
These trends are putting pressure on all employees for continually acquiring new knowledge and skills. Tim Hoff, of American Trainco, offers these eight reasons for continuous learning:
1. To enhance skills, especially those not fully developed in school or prior experience.
2. To provide job security by increasing value to company
3. To increase career options within and outside current employer
4. To improve adaptability to changes in organization and industry
5. To achieve more professional success
6. To have higher job satisfaction
7. To increase income
8. To stay current with industry trends and best practices
Vincent Belliveau, general manager at Cornerstone OnDemand, links continuous learning to employee engagement, which, he argues, results in greater productivity, reduced turnover, and a better company reputation. This link between employee engagement and company success appears to be supported by research.
Andres Fortino of DeVry College of New York, writing in The Evolllution, makes the distinction between training and education. Learners will benefit from both training and education. He writes: “To keep up and to advance it is imperative that professionals engage in some form of continuing education or they will soon find themselves less in demand.”
The solution is creating a culture of learning in organizations that utilizes external education courses, workplace formal training, workplace informal training, and opportunities for feedback and reflection that help employees learn from their workplace activity. Organizations need to support continuous learning continuously. The key to this is having managers who encourage, facilitate, and reward learning by their direct reports.