There is an emerging mandate from both peers and companies for employees to sustain their learning activity. Whether it is self-directed or pushed by companies, the education needs to be both fun and doable or employees will be unmotivated to participate.
At work, employees are expected to be perpetual students, to learn quickly, to grow and adapt, and to stretch. Although some organizations do provide avenues for coaching, mentoring, and networking, those things cannot replace structured learning. Continuing education needs to be seen by leadership as integral to employees’ jobs. Employers should provide positive support and challenges rather than expecting employees’ learning to be self-directed.
How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?
Learning efforts will not be well received without company leadership behind them. Companies should avoid seeing continuing education as self-directed and something that employees take on in addition to their regular duties to their companies, families, and communities. Learning can grow in an environment where learners receive support through exposure to role models, sufficient autonomy, progress measured by 360-degree feedback, and the chance for such rewards as promotions and stock ownership.
Much research has been done on the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors that promote learning as well as on the kinds of learners, cultures, and policies that enable businesses to change and survive. Companies can use that research as guidance for building stronger learning environments. One such example is the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, which structures internal conversations as debates, exploratory discussions, or teaching moments.
Employees need to have a growth mindset and a predisposition to learning. These characteristics can give inexperienced people an edge over their more seasoned colleagues. Continual learning serves people well in a fast-moving world, but if it does not come naturally, it is possible that mental exercise could help. The mandate to always be learning is certainly growing and could put individuals and organizations on a highly beneficial path to success.
In school, grades differentiate students from each other, and in the business world, continuing education can do the same. Those who are scouting for new learning opportunities and taking advantage of them will eventually set themselves apart from others.