It has become increasingly important to invest time in continuous learning because the concepts of “you live, and you learn” and “you are a student of life” have gained relevance. Lifelong learning refers to the idea of alternating work and training, always focusing on developing one’s professional and personal skills.
Why Continuous Education Matters
It was during the twentieth century that the continuing education movement and adult education were born. Due to the industrialization of the world economy, the need for continuing education and improved access for adults has challenged traditional educational venues and created opportunities for skill enhancement and enrichment on both a professional and a personal level. A wide variety of factors contribute to the demand for lifelong learning in the twenty-first century, including abundant access to information, rapid technological change, increased global interaction, industry shifts, and higher entry-level credentials.
Organizations and individuals both benefit from lifelong learning and continued education. In addition to improving skills and keeping up with industry trends, continuing education and learning can assist individuals in advancing their careers. It can increase their employability and help them adapt to changing job requirements and technologies.
To ensure a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce, employers rely on continuing education. An organizational culture that encourages continuous education and improvement is known as continuous learning. Employees start looking for their next professional endeavor as soon as they stop learning in an organization. Professional development and training opportunities rank high on the list of priorities for employees when looking for new jobs. According to research, a company that invests in its employees’ development and learning will retain 94 percent of its employees.
There are various formats for continuous learning, including formal courses, informal learning, team shadowing, training programs, and one-on-one and group coaching.
There is usually a set time and place for formal learning. A college class, for instance, is held at set times in a classroom. As opposed to taking classes on demand when it’s convenient, formal learning involves participants gathering at the same time. There are many types of formal learning, including schooling, workshops, and eLearning.
In social learning, you mimic someone else’s behavior in a similar situation after observing them. Developing specific skills for a particular role or industry can benefit learners. Shadowing, for instance, is a form of social learning where a learner observes an experienced colleague handle day-to-day situations. By using the experienced colleague as an example, the learner can improve their own problem-solving skills.
The self-directed learning method allows learners to complete training courses or read materials at their own pace, either at work or at home. Self-directed learning includes on-demand micro-courses that are not part of a specific training program. A learner can also benefit from reading books relevant to his or her industry or role. Individuals can choose what they want to learn, as self-directed learning increases their autonomy. In addition, it can help increase the adoption of continuous learning in your organization since it is very convenient for employees.
Licensing in many countries, for example the United States is heavily reliant on continuing education. Obtaining a license in most regulated professions requires a certain level of education. Several sectors require proof of continuing education for license renewal/re-licensure for professionals in specialized fields. Continuing education can be defined as any additional relevant education undertaken by professionals after receiving their initial license. Several professions, such as teachers, lawyers, healthcare workers, accountants, engineers, and others, require continuing education credits in order to advance their careers, resulting in the development of CE programs across the country as well as growing market demand.
Benefits of continuous learning for businesses
The good news is that continuous learning benefits your organization and your employees. Using online and on-demand methods like asynchronous learning, blended learning, and virtual instructor-led training is a cost-effective way to help employees upskill and reskill. Providing learning opportunities for your team members also helps them feel like valued members of their team because they know you’re invested in their growth and improvement.
Professional development is a high priority for employees, and it’s crucial to offer continuous opportunities for growth if you want to improve employee engagement and avoid turnover. Having the right skills for a job helps employees be more capable and self-directed. That helps improve morale, as does the feeling that employees can grow in their careers with your organization. In a 2022 survey, SHRM found that 76 percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that offers continuous training.
Unsurprisingly, engaged employees do better work, but continuous learning also helps improve performance by filling skill gaps for individuals and within the organization. Offering the opportunity to learn and practice these skills improves that supervisor’s performance and up-levels the entire team. About 87 percent of companies either have skill gaps now or expect to in the near future. A company culture that encourages continuous learning can train people to meet those needs, improving the entire organization’s performance. Continuous learning is also a great way to meet succession needs and plan for the company’s future.
Companies that don’t focus on continuous learning often struggle to grow. People get stuck in “the way we’ve always done it” and fail to experiment, adapt, and try new approaches. On the other hand, a culture of continuous learning encourages experimentation and learning from mistakes, which helps a company grow much more quickly. When people are encouraged to think outside the box, it can be easier to innovate, adapt, and improve the organization’s standing in the marketplace.