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A lifelong learning culture

By Marios Siathas

Most people associate learning with attaining a formal education at school, college, university, etc.  From an early age, we are all told that we should ‘get a good education’, however, lifelong learning is far more than that. It is a mind-set and a habit for people to acquire.

In both our workplace and personal life, it is important to continually keep our skills and knowledge up to date, giving us an edge in all that we do.  It’s also only natural to have a desire to learn, to adapt to change, to enrich and fulfil our lives.

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By embracing a lifelong learning culture, organisations can develop better, more engaged and effective employees. When organisations value and encourage learning, employees will, in turn, bring fresh, new ideas to the table; they will always be up to date on changing regulations, technologies and other new trends in their fields, while allowing the organisation itself to be agile.

Indeed, learning new skills and gaining a deeper understanding of one’s field is essential to professional success. Lifelong learning should be part of the job, whatever the job may be. Organisations must help foster a learning culture by providing the resources, tools and time to facilitate the acquisition of new skills and reward those who display the propensity to adapt to change.

In turn, these people need to be given roles allowing them to further develop that culture within the organisation. Lifelong learning should be part of their overall DNA, and should be clearly embedded into their vision, mission and values.
The following are a few tactics that can be implemented to create a culture of learning in your organisation:

Define your organisation’s learning goals

Make learning a part of goal-setting with employees.  In any set period, encourage them to set at least one to two goals around a learning objective. This objective can be directly related to what they do or it could be something that will help them in the future. Supervisors and managers of employees need to support them in this effort by checking in on their progress during periodic one-on-ones and finding ways to help.

Tame training budget challenges

Most organisations struggle with the cost of learning. There are many things that could help, such as technology and the availability of e-learning and other self-directed learning methods, whilst job shadowing and on-the-job coaching can also be good alternative solutions. Organisations can also create small book libraries and distribute texts and other literature to employees to read.

While budget constraints can be a challenge, taking advantage of subsidies offered by authorities and planning ahead so as to benefit from special fees can make a huge difference. Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that investing in employees will pay dividends in the form of a more dedicated, engaged and educated workforce. Should you need assistance in planning to enjoy some of the financial savings, please contact a member of our team.

Hold light weekly meets

In addition to skills required for their job, employees will often have other skills and knowledge that could prove beneficial to the organisation. By offering a friendly, relaxed environment – perhaps by holding short weekly “get-together” meetings with snacks and drinks – people will have the chance to share their own knowledge with others. This can be a fun learning activity that benefits everyone.

Connect employees online

Use of internal social employee ecosystems can help interactions between employees and provide a place where people can share experiences or find answers to questions. There are several cloud-based free or pay platforms that can be implemented in organisations. Success of such an initiative will depend on usability, support to get started and the efforts of a few evangelists to help ‘promote’ use of the system to all employees.

Acknowledge results

For employees who take advantage of learning opportunities, organisations must ensure they take the time to acknowledge their achievements and explain how it’s helping their team and the business overall, thereby encouraging them to continue learning, as well as showing others its importance.

We live in a constantly-changing business environment, with many organisations feeling the pressure to keep up with changes to stay ahead of the competition. To achieve this, developing a culture of learning can no longer be a secondary priority, as this will secure happy, engaged employees who will ultimately allow the business to succeed.

By adopting a robust approach to lifelong learning, organisations can enable employees to thrive in their careers while investing in their long-term success. Such organisations will have the competitive edge needed to get ahead in the modern knowledge-based business world.

When employees are active learners on the job, they see challenges more clearly, become more creative and strategic in their problem-solving and, ultimately, work smarter with better results.

Marios Siathas is General Manager of the European Institute of Management and Finance (EIMF)

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