When we throw our caps up in the air during graduation, some of us think that it is the end tip of our learning curve. Some may argue that it is only the beginning but neither is it the beginning nor the end but just some random midpoint in the graph.
The truth is that learning begins the day we enter into this world and continues till we depart from it. It is also something that employers expect of their employees to be engaged in the process of continuous professional development.
What is continuous learning?
A crucial part of an individual’s ongoing personal and professional life is to be constantly engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. Continuous learning refers to the ongoing development of knowledge, abilities and skills through various avenues.
It is possible to inculcate the habit of continuous learning at both the individual as well as the organisational level. It is common to find people who are self-motivated on an individual level to keep learning and improving and they believe it to be the best way to develop themselves as a person.
However, at an organisational level, much of the responsibility to shape employees and expand their skill sets lies with the employer. Keeping up with the functions and duties of a job becomes much easier if employees are inclined towards continuous learning.
Employers these days expect their employees to acquire more skills and knowledge but very few actually make the tools or resources available to them.
Very few employers can be found who go to the extent of partnering with a university or college to professionally develop their employees and hone their skills.
Benefits of Continuous Learning
Following are some benefits of inculcating the habit of continuous learning:
More Loyal and Happier Employees
When employers show that they care about the goals of the employees and also the progress that they make with them, they are likely to be happier at their jobs.
Younger employees, especially those belonging to the millennial generation tend to assign a lot of importance to mentorship and view it is an important factor for productivity.
Supporting the development of your employee’s career in this manner communicates to them that you care about them and that you’re not just looking to take their time, labour and passion without giving back anything beyond the necessary financial compensation.
Just like employees have developed the mindset that they mustn’t take many efforts for a particular job as they will leave it in a couple of years, employers too feel they have lesser responsibility towards refining the skills of their employees as they are uncertain about when an employee would leave the company.
However, the companies that foster the habit of continuous learning even in such times when employment has become so volatile are known to enjoy a higher rate of retention and also greater success.
Improvement easier than replacement
Finding a replacement for an employee continues to be a hectic venture for most companies. Each time an employer has to let an employee go they are subjected through a tedious process that makes them incur costs such as unemployment taxes, severance pay and the inevitable loss of energy and time. Involvement of some kind of litigation makes the process further difficult.
Therefore, a sensible thing to do is to spend money in elevation of your current employees by providing them with career development avenues and financial support for education as against hiring new ones.
Examples of Continuous Learning
There are many learning opportunities for individuals who are looking to update their knowledge. The following approaches can be followed to build new skills and knowledge such as:
Attending seminar and industry talks
Reading articles, magazines, books etc.
Listening to podcasts and watching videos
Enrolling yourself in degrees and seminars
Undertaking challenging roles and assignments
Not hesitating to ask for help each time something is unclear to you
Carefully observing those who have a better experience than you do
Adopting the approach of trial and error
Applying and practising the new skills on the job
Using self-analysis to track one’s own progress over time
Asking for feedback and working towards improvement
There are so many things to learn that even if we spend our entire life pursuing knowledge we will barely be able to scratch the surface. Developing the mindset to find out more about anything and everything that we come across is key to continuous learning.