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Talent Development

What is Continuous Learning and How to Implement It

Learning shouldn’t end at onboarding. In fact, it shouldn’t end. Ever.

As soon as your employees stop learning, they start looking for their next professional endeavor. In fact, 80 percent of employees rank professional development and training opportunities high on their list of priorities when looking into new jobs. And 94 percent of employees say they would stay longer at a company that invested in their learning and development.

Show your employees you care about their development and career by giving them accessible continual learning and growth opportunities.

One of the best ways to do that is by investing in a continuous learning platform that allows your employees to upskill without adding more to their plate.

What is continuous learning?

Continuous learning is a workplace culture that encourages employees to prioritize ongoing learning and improvement. Continuous learning can happen through various formats, including formal courses, informal learning, shadowing teammates, training programs, one-on-one and group coaching, and casual interactions.

A continuous learning platform is a tool that enables employees to continue learning new skills.

Why is continuous learning important for companies?

To survive and thrive in today’s era of work, companies need to be innovative and adaptive, which depends on employees’ skills and knowledge. As Lynda Gratton, a professor of management practice at the London Business School, said, “Continuous learning in the workplace must become the new norm if individuals and organizations want to stay ahead.” The business world changes quickly—if your employees can’t keep up, then your organization will fall behind.

Organizations must use different formats and methodologies to promote a continuous learning environment that supports team members with different learning styles. With so many companies moving to remote and hybrid models, learning must be flexible and on-demand.

Benefits of continuous learning

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.   

In addition, continuous learning offers the following benefits.

  • Your employees are happier and more engaged, so they stay with you longer
  • Your employees can keep working on personal growth while still helping the team
  • Your workforce is better prepared for changes because they are more skilled
  • Your company will experience faster growth because your team is always looking for something new and innovative to try

Ultimately, when you create a continuous learning culture, your team’s skill set and knowledge evolve with the changing times.

Continuous learning examples

Continuous learning can take on many forms, which is advantageous since individuals have different learning styles. Three of the most common types of continuous learning are formal, social, and self-directed learning.

Formal learning

Formal or structured learning generally takes place in a classroom format. Formal learning could occur in an educational setting, like college courses, but formal learning can also include web-based training, workshops, and eLearning.

Social learning

Social learning occurs through observing others. In the workplace, employees can learn from more experienced colleagues. One of the benefits of social learning is workers can develop the specific skills they need for their particular role or industry.  

Self-directed learning

Self-directed learning places the responsibility for acquiring knowledge and skills on the individual. Although employers need to provide adequate resources and training materials, self-directed learning can be advantageous in the workplace because employees can complete lessons and courses at their own pace on their own time.

The difference between lifelong learning and continuous learning

Continuous and lifelong learning are similar, but there are a few nuances. 

Continuous learning

As implied by the name, continuous learning is meant to be ongoing. In the workplace, team members continue developing new skills and knowledge, which helps enhance their current skillset. 

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is also an ongoing process, but there is generally more emphasis on personal development and self-initiated learning vs. skills-based training. 

Both continuous and lifelong learning are integral parts of a successful workplace because they promote the idea that learning and improvement is a process vs. a destination and that learning should be ongoing regardless of an employee’s level or experience.

How to build a continuous environment at your company

A workplace culture that values learning sees feedback and coaching as growth opportunities. Developing a continuous learning culture starts with emphasizing the value of giving and receiving feedback and encouragement. This helps your employees adopt a learner mindset and become proactive about gathering insights from colleagues.

Get your team on board

Your team needs to believe in the value of learning if you want them to invest time into continuous learning. In an already-busy workday, learning has to have value, or your team will check out.

Part of creating a business environment where learning is not only encouraged but expected is shifting the thinking of everyone on the team. Talk to your team and explain the benefits of continuous or constant learning on a team and individual level. Explain that continuous learning:

  • Keeps their skills and knowledge updated
  • Helps them think more creatively
  • Prepares them for unexpected situations and problem-solving
  • Improves collaboration by making sure everyone is aligned

And then explain that a continuous learner with a growth mindset:

  • Regularly asks for feedback on internal and external projects from peers and managers
  • Sees failures as learning opportunities instead of weaknesses
  • Challenges common preconceptions so that they can learn more
  • Actively looks for relevant e-learning courses and certificates
  • Takes the initiative to increase knowledge

As Albert Einstein said, “Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.” Instill a hunger for knowledge within your team, and your employees will be producing better results and growing with your company.

Encourage learning in the flow of work

Learning in the flow of work happens at the moment. It’s learning while doing — without formal learning materials like books, courses, and lessons. It’s also known as “learning in the moment of need” because it focuses on letting employees get started on a task while they’re still learning the task.

It’s a better way to retain information, and it increases productivity. Employees who learn while working said they were 39 percent more likely to be productive and achieve success and 47 percent less stressed.

In addition to better results, not everyone has the time to learn outside of work. Knowledge workers, for example, spend around five hours on their core responsibilities, another three hours on creative or strategic work, and 1 to 3 hours helping other people.

While many of your employees want to learn new things and grow their careers, executives and project managers found that employees don’t upskill because they can’t make time for it.

A system that supports learning in the flow of work will help your employees upskill without adding more hours to their workday.

To do that:

  • Create help docs that anticipate and solve roadblocks
  • House those help docs in a self-directed learning platform
  • Tell your employees who they can talk to if they need more assistance

We also suggest creating an employee experience platform that lets your team access learning content in a single workflow and within a single application.

Investing in infrastructure that encourages learning in the flow of work ensures that your employees learn exactly what they need to know when they need to.

Create customized learning experiences

Your teams and employees have different backgrounds, skills, and experiences. This means everyone wants to learn different things in different ways.

Your content managers, for instance, have no interest in learning more about hiring best practices. Your recruiters don’t want to learn how to write a great introduction.

Continuous learning requires custom learning paths for your employees so they get the most out of your training material. Each learning path should be designed with your employees’ skill levels, seniority, interests, and career development goals. For example, a beginner SEO course works really well for new content marketing hires, and a technical SEO course might be ideal for more senior employees.

While the jury is still out on the four learning styles—visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic—it’s still good to have your training materials in different formats for accessibility. Start with creating video versions of all your docs and transcripts for your training videos.

Create a peer-to-peer learning network

A peer-to-peer (P2P) learning network is a system where employees share their knowledge through presentations. For example, content marketing agency Animalz organizes monthly skillshares that allow any team member to teach everyone else about something they’re experts in.

Big companies like Google and YouTube have built growth mindsets and learning cultures using P2P learning networks, also known as social learning networks. As of today, 80 percent of tracked training is conducted through Google’s g2g—Googler-to-Googler—network.

Googlers lean on each other because the company built a culture that applauds this behavior. Google now rarely brings in outside trainers to educate their team—they encourage their people to learn from each other.

You can emulate Google’s success with a system that encourages employees to teach the rest of your team about something they know. Topics like “How to use Google Analytics” or “Springtime around the world” create opportunities for learning and development.

The idea is to encourage your team to share their knowledge and be curious about all kinds of information.

Embrace continuous learning and invest in your employees—they’ll love you for it

The more skilled your employees become, the more attractive they’ll be to other companies. But if you continue to invest in their development and help them reach their full potential, they’re more likely to stay and continue to grow.

Want to learn more about how to use WorkRamp to promote a learning culture? Contact us to schedule a demo.

Maile Timon

Maile Timon is WorkRamp’s Content Strategist. She has more than 11 years of experience in content marketing and SEO and has written for several publications and industries, including B2B, marketing, lifestyle, health, and more. When she’s not writing or developing content strategies, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.

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