American financier and oilman Henry L Doherty said this of learning: “Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” He was a wise man, and it’s perhaps this earnestness to learn that made his company, CITGO, a successful 4,000-employee strong, US$ 801 million (2008) company.
For most of us, learning becomes a task. And as we get older, ‘life’ gets in the way of our learning and as we concentrate on being a caregiver, a spouse, a breadwinner… learning takes a backseat. And then, there is the psychology-backed theory: We all start out in life as learners, but at some point, we stop being learners and become ‘knowers’. Being a ‘knower’ somehow makes it difficult to continue being ‘learners’.
Don’t we witness this all the time at the workplace? Employees have a negative attitude toward taking up training, learners are reluctant to learn, and with this negative attitude, training fails. Continuous learning in an organization is necessary for better employee engagement and productivity that directly influences the return on investment (ROI) and long-term success of the organization.
The only way to counteract this stubborn streak within us is to make learning at the workplace attractive enough to make our learners want to learn.
Here are 3 tips to get your employees to embrace continuous learning.
#1 Make learning meaningful:
- Make learning count by creating learning that can be used. Motivate learners by giving them valid reasons to learn (a particular course).
- Lend meaningfulness to learning through training content; keep content relevant to individual learners, teams, and departments.
- Use training techniques that stimulate learners to contribute their prior knowledge and personal experiences to the course – to help build knowledge on existing knowledge.
- Define clear objectives so there is no ambiguity, and learners know what is expected of them.
- Leverage technology and give learners a chance to pursue learning in their own time, at their own pace, and in their own space – that is how learning happens across ages, cultures, and countries; and by giving this to your learners, you give learning a chance to happen naturally and continuously.
#2 Build learning on adult learning principles:
- When designing a training program or fostering a learning atmosphere within an organization, bear in mind that adults learn differently to children.
- Make learners a part of the entire training process – from the designing of the course to the final assessments, by taking their inputs.
- Provide minimum instruction; however, provide a strong and stable support system to offer help when required.
- Make instructional material appealing to a wide audience by providing a bit of something for everyone (through a variety of instructional models and theories). At the same time, do not try to cater to several audiences with a single course.
- Encourage collaboration with peers. Any activity that helps foster social development is viewed with positivity.
- Learners must be given a chance to create their individual learning experiences. Provide several opportunities within a training environment for learners to seek out information and knowledge on their own.
#3 Build a continuous learning culture within your organization:
- A proper learning culture will improve employee engagement and promote continuous learning within an organization.
- Assess your organization’s current learning culture, strategize, and plan on improving the learning culture.
- Invest time, money, and resources to build the right learning culture.
- Promote knowledge sharing within the organization.
- Empower learners and let them take over their own learning.
- Show learners how to learn and what to learn, instead of throwing them into the deep.
- Assess learners and measure results at regular intervals.
Motivation, a reliable support system, regular tracking of progress, and the determination to learn from setbacks will get your learners to embrace continuous learning.