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Continuous Learning in the Workplace: Strategies for Professional Development

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People seek roles in which they feel valued, invested in, and encouraged to reach their potential. Employers require their staff to be highly skilled and committed to the company they work for. Continuous Learning in the workplace is something that encourages and solidifies both things.

In this blog we’re going to discuss continuous learning in the workplace, the benefits from both an employer and employee’s perspective and some strategies that will support organisations foster an environment of teaching and development. 

What is continuous learning in the workplace?

Continuous learning is described as ‘a workplace culture that encourages employees to prioritize ongoing learning and improvement.’ It's often referred to as a strategic process that is said to have benefits for both employees and employers.

Previously, learning and development was commonly more well known as training, and consisted of a course where you would learn the hard skills required to do a specific job, during the first few months of a new role.

Now, companies are adopting continuous learning in the workplace with a hope to build environments where up to date trends and capabilities can be easily embedded and staff remain agile and creative in their thinking and developing.

The most important word to remember here is ‘continuous’, as learning should never essentially stop in an environment that fosters professional development. This is what differs continuous learning from traditional on the job training.

Examples of continuous learning in the workplace

Continuous learning can take various formats such as formal, unformal, be quite structured or completely flexible. It can also take place over a fixed amount of time (e.g., a 1-year course), or it can be an ongoing process.

A few examples of what continuous learning looks like in a professional setting include:

  • Coaching and shadowing in various departments and or with C-Suite staff
  • Individual study such as reading, listening to podcasts, sourcing materials and online research
  • Attending industry relevant conferences, events or workshops
  • Enrolling on a structured course or qualification that will provide you with up to date skills

Benefits of continuous learning in the workplace

There are several great benefits to both the employer and employee for companies that invest in continuous learning, such as:

Ensuring you stay ahead of the curve –being the first to know of new trends, insights, and research relevant to your industry is something that organisations rely on their staff for and in turn, staff gain this information through professional development and continuous learning

Achieve organisational objectives – employees who are knowledgeable about their market and have the correct tools and processes in place to do their job, are more likely to be able to contribute to organisational success.

Positive effects on recruitment and retraining – workplaces that foster continuous learning environments are statistically proven to be more attractive to those who are currently job hunting and to those who have been in their role for some time and would like to upskill or reskill

Four strategies for successful continuous learning in the workplace

1) Create a learning plan or programme and keep it relevant

With five active generations in the workplace and a vast amount of variety amongst employees, it’s never been more critical to ensure your learning and development plan is one that caters to all generations, fights stereotypes and is inclusive of employee’s needs, interests and capabilities.

To ensure your learning plan is applicable of all employees, communication amongst top and bottom level staff is key, as well as investigation into where skill gaps occur and thorough analysis of programmes that have been unsuccessful in the past. Appropriate research and ongoing analysis is also incredibly beneficial.

2) Make it fun and social

No employee will engage in learning and development if they feel it is both disengaging and easy to disconnect from. A simple way to get around this is to make learning social and encourage staff to learn together.

  • Successful tips include:
  • Learning group
  • Mixing peers
  • Creating breakout rooms
  • Informative Q&A sessions with industry experts

Individuals are spending large amounts of time online already and are computer literate, so utilising these digital systems will only increase company collaboration.

Additionally, many of us working to hybrid models, and most importantly, everyone learns in different ways, so it’s vital that learning is suitable for auditory learners, visual learners, kinaesthetic learners and reading and writing learners.

3) Make time for learning and keep up the momentum

Continuous learning requires a substantial amount of input from both the employer and employee and it’s a shared responsibility to ensure that both parties are investing a solid amount of time.

It is difficult to say how much time is required, as this can vary between people, industry and personal matters. However, generally committing 5 hours a week, 1 hour a day to continuous learning is a solid place to start. Generally, set a goal and stick to it, results will show over time if you remain consistent.

Ongoing positive reinforcement and encouragement will also remind staff how much continuous learning can and will benefit their career, ensuring they stay motivated during the day to day.

4) Create a two-way dialogue

Your employees may not be L&D experts; however, they are the ones working day in and day out for the company and will have an idea of continuous learning that will benefit them.

Ensuring your employees are involved in the creation of learning plans or programmes will ensure they feel seen, heard, and valued, which in turn will make the adoption of these plans much easier.

This also gives senior managers and L&D experts the chance to collaborate and learn from those working on the ground and with plenty of opportunity for feedback which later can be included in updated plans.

So, while it is clear professional development is a fundamental part of any workplace in 2023, for it to be truly successful, the correct experts need to be involved in the creation and this is where Human Resources and Learning and Development professionals can contribute an abundance of knowledge and expertise about professional behaviours, continuous learning, and people management.

If you’re passionate about the growth of people, enrol on a HR or L&D course today and become CIPD qualified.