Why is lifelong learning important for each of us as professionals? What is its real value to organizations?
Lifelong learning matters to us as individuals because it enables us to adapt and change to unforeseen demands and shifts. It doesn’t just keep our skills sharp; it broadens them, helping us to stay relevant and marketable, should we desire to change roles. It also helps us to remain challenged, investing deeply in the hands-on work we do without leaving it to further our studies more formally.
If you run people ops or HR for a large organization, you’ve likely got lifelong learning on your mind. You know that it touches every aspect of your business, from productivity to culture, from sustainability to profitability, and ultimately, innovation.
Here’s a question worth pondering: Are you currently encouraging lifelong learning within your company, and if so, how? Perhaps the better question to ask is: is this a value that’s projected from the upper echelons of management? And then: what are you (or could you be) doing to support others’ adoption of this value?
In any given moment, nobody knows everything that’s needed for their jobs. (*This is why all job postings are really wish lists—a topic for another post!) But embodying a desire to continually learn requires a kind of humility and vulnerability before embracing more publicly. Are there ways you could further enable internal champions of lifelong learning in your organization? And are you actively rewarding those who continuously ask, seek advice and acknowledge they don’t know it all?
Here are five ways you can promote lifelong learning:
- Find your internal champions. They could be in R&D, accounting, marketing or operations–no matter their field of expertise, internal champions could be highlighting the importance of lifelong learning. Once you engage them, they’ll turn this effort into more than an HR initiative. They will influence their direct teammates, who in turn will convince other colleagues of its value.
- Encourage vulnerability from the top down. If employees don’t feel safe sharing their perceived weaknesses, how can you expect them to openly want to learn? If this is the case at your company, you can set the tone for a learning-focused culture by getting the executive team on board. (When they acknowledge the skills they’d like to acquire and demonstrate a willingness to learn, others will listen.)
- Create convenient avenues for growth. Maybe it’s a weekly lunch and learn, a 1:1 mentoring program or a mix of digital and face-to-face opportunities. Meeting your employees where they are and enabling them to engage on their own terms will prompt continued outreach.
- Celebrate incremental progress. If we’re not taking the time to reflect on what our team has accomplished, we’re doing it wrong. Trumpeting the efforts of teammates and spotlighting those who have invested in both themselves and others will help shape your company culture. (Of course, platforms that track such activity make this even easier.)
- Invite feedback. There’s a reason ‘How’s My Driving?’ is a popular bumper sticker. Putting this mentality into practice in our workplaces offers us greater insight than we could imagine. Feedback doesn’t only have to come from surveys. For example, enabling employees to rate learning opportunities, discovering which staff members are standout mentors and having visibility into the questions employees are asking are all reasons why businesses are choosing Emerj.
Nobody walks this path to improvement alone. When we talk about servant leaders, they are exemplified as those with authority who seek to support others in their growth. They put others first, empowering them to blossom in their roles and beyond. If they grow within the company, this is naturally a huge benefit.
There’s no greater support than enabling others to learn, and to share their knowledge—and there’s no better strategy for the long-term health and viability of your company.