The importance of continuous learning in the workplace

Have you ever added items to your to-do list after they are already done, just for the satisfaction of crossing them out? From simple tasks to major projects, those feelings of accomplishment, joy and sometimes even relief are familiar to and welcomed by just about all of us. That is great for spurring us to achieve our goals or meet a deadline.

The downside, though, is that we may be so enthused about marking something as done and behind us that we are reluctant to start anything else. This is particularly insidious when it comes to training and development. Too many companies and employees are happy to finish a few mandatory trainings each year, and then forget all about those topics and neglect to seek out other training opportunities.

That kind of attitude inevitably leads to stagnation and a workforce that cannot keep up with changing demands. Continuous learning in the workplace is essential to combating potential apathy, while still celebrating accomplishments along the way.

What is continuous learning?

Continuous learning at work is an acknowledgement that learning is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done proposition. In a company with a continuous learning philosophy, learning and education are built into the work environment with programs that enable employees to expand their skills and enjoy professional development that both improves their job performance and bolsters their own professional goals.

In addition to giving employees support, guidance and access to training resources, investment in technology is often another important factor. The right technology helps to improve employee involvement, track progress and make training accessible to everybody. The TurningPoint interactive learning platform is one such technology that provides support for a continuous learning atmosphere, either on its own or in concert with other training tools.

Continuous learning at work is an acknowledgement that learning is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done proposition.

Why continuous learning at work is important

It takes work and investment to ingrain a continuous learning philosophy into a company’s culture, and employees and management at all levels have to be on board for it to work. Further, everyone will need to see the benefits, or such efforts will quickly be deemed a waste of time. Fortunately, continuous learning provides numerous benefits to both companies and the employees themselves.

Stay competitive

No industry remains static for long. Every aspect of a job – from technology to client expectations – is bound to shift over time. New employees are often hired with fresh insights, but those grow stale over time as they get used to the way things are done. A focus on continuous learning combats that complacency, and keeps employees on the cutting edge. That not only allows you to better serve clients, but also puts your organization at an advantage against others in your field.

Retain employees

Why invest resources in recruiting and onboarding new employees when the perfect people for the job are here already? Retaining quality employees not only builds your competitive edge, but also saves a company money in the long-term.

Continuous learning helps with this endeavor on many fronts. First, it encourages current employees to expand their horizons and learn new skills. That means that they will be well-suited to advance along with the industry, or even more into a different position at the company, rather than take a back seat to new recruits or look for employment elsewhere.

Just as importantly, an investment in employee development shows how much you value them as people, not just cogs in a machine. In fact, in a recent report from Udemy, 42 percent of employees said that learning and development is the most important benefit when deciding where to work.

Build a leadership and promotion pipeline

Along similar lines, continuous learning in the workplace opens the door to cultivating leaders from within. One major barrier to promotion and advancement in a company is often a lack of necessary skills. With solid training programs and support in place, employees can overcome those hurdles. That not only helps them move forward in their careers without jumping ship, but also benefits the company itself because manager and senior leaders will have a deeper knowledge of how everything works from the ground up.

Improve knowledge retention

Remembering the key points of a training over the long-term, or even for more than a few days after the training is over, presents a big challenge. If an important training happens only once without any reinforcement then that challenge becomes nearly insurmountable. Continuous learning practices combat this by reviewing key concepts over and over again. This can take the form of short training sessions spaced throughout the year, on-the-job reinforcement of skills and more.

How to create a continuous learning culture at work

If you want to build a culture of learning, the best plan can depend on many factors including the size of your company, the specific needs of your industry and what challenges you are facing as an organization. However, there are some basic steps that you should consider no matter what.

Determine what training is needed

Identify skills categories that are relevant to your industry and then build an organized inventory of which employees have those skills (and at what level). This will provide insights into which areas are flush with talent and which areas have gaps that could be filled with training. With this information as a guide, it is much easier to plan internal trainings and/or approve external trainings and workshops.

Surveying employees is another way to determine what trainings are most needed, since they often know best where they are lacking and what additional skills would be most useful on the job. TurningPoint allows companies to schedule online surveys to quickly garner this kind of employee feedback. At the end of a training, surveys are also valuable to learn whether it was worthwhile or not.

Outline measurable goals and learning objectives

Without clear goals and objectives, a continuous learning program is likely to be a waste of time and resources. The first step is to establish a company-wide mission and vision. That way, every training can be sure to align to those all-important goalposts. Then, establish measureable learning outcomes for each individual training so that employees and trainers alike can be sure that they are achieving the desired results.

Response technology like TurningPoint assists with assessing learner understanding and measuring which employees have achieved training objectives. Interactive questions throughout a training (either live or asynchronous) serve as touchpoints to check on knowledge as you go, while more expansive summative assessments can provide a more comprehensive measure of competence. Further, organization-wide analytics allow you to monitor usage, track attendance and measure participation across the board.

Create paths to promotion

A company that embraces continuous learning sends the message that they want their employees to advance within their roles and beyond them. However, it is impossible for employees to pursue a promotion if they don’t understand the knowledge gaps that are preventing them from getting to where they want to go.

Clear job descriptions are an essential foundation for making these qualifications more clear. In addition, it is important to work with employees to build personal development plans so that they can clearly see what kinds of training, certifications and other educational opportunities would best fit their ambitions.

Reach employees where they are

Whether your employees are on-site or working from home, training and development are as important as ever in building a successful workplace. This is especially true in a continuous learning environment, as you do not want valuable practices to ebb with an extended break in educational opportunities.

TurningPoint offers tools that allow instructors to enhance real-time remote trainings and meetings with interactive questions, no conferencing software required, while employees respond from anywhere using their own cell phone, tablet or computer. Asynchronous capabilities also give trainers the power to provide text, images and videos alongside assessment questions for employees to complete at any time.

Want to learn how TurningPoint can help you build a culture of continuous learning?