•   Article   •   5 mins

Four Key Traits of Lifelong Learning, Your Business Differentiator

Traditionally-career-minded people are the type of employee motivated to work full time for competitive compensation and perks. And while they care about work-life balance, they’re willing to make tradeoffs for the sake of their jobs, according to new research from McKinsey & Company.

Yet even the most risk-averse stalwarts of the labor pool have acquiesced again and again to the pressures and enticements of the Great Resignation. The same goes for idealistic student- and part-time workers concerned largely with flexibility and community — and for other people sitting out the COVID-19 era world of work, the McKinsey study found. “It’s the quitting trend that just won’t quit.”

When analysts at the global management consulting firm took a look at record levels of voluntary attrition from April 2021 to April 2022, they found people moved on for several key reasons. Some sought a better boss or more pay. Others left to care for their families.

At the top of the list? People quit their jobs due to inadequate career development and advancement.  

These findings echo a 2021 Gallup survey. A majority of U.S.-based Gen Z workers ranked “learning new skills” among the key drivers they used to evaluate job opportunities. That same year, Degreed found nearly half of workers around the world were more likely to leave their jobs if they didn’t see a commitment to upskilling and reskilling.

People are hungry to acquire new skills. They seek companies with cultures focused on workforce development — and they’re ditching those that don’t. All this presents L&D with a red-hot opportunity: Make continual, lifelong learning a pillar of your company culture and reap the benefits of a happy, loyal workforce.

Lifelong Learning Is Multimodal

Degreed was created on a simple premise: Education is too important to stay the way it is.

Co-founders David Blake and Eric Sharp set out to jailbreak the college degree. “It should be our skills, irrespective of how or where we develop them, that should be what determines our opportunities, and I wanted to be part of the solution,” Blake said.

Inherent in that sentiment is the concept that learning never ends. 

The reality is people develop skills every day, often without realizing it. Maybe they’re figuring out how to do something in Excel or enlisting the help of a coworker to find data in Salesforce. It all counts, because learning isn’t limited to formal courses, workshops or lectures — and doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It can come from a podcast or even a conversation.

At the same time, we’ve found that workers need and more importantly want guidance, diverse experiences, feedback, insights and experiential learning opportunities. In this fast-paced world, it’s vital to invest in your people and create the right conditions for learning. For example, employers that excel at internal mobility retain people for an average of 5.4 years, nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it. 

“Professional development has become a top priority for workers when determining their interest in or loyalty to a company,” said Janice Burns, Chief People Officer at Degreed. “Specifically, workers are yearning for more educational options that align with their professional purpose and growth. Companies that provide these types of benefits will attract, engage and retain the best workers.”

Lifelong Learning Is a Habit

“In a world that is constantly changing, there is no subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.” – John Naisbitt, author and futurist

To survive and get ahead, people need to sharpen the skill of learning. How can you help them find the time to develop and become lifelong learners? The first step is recognizing the importance of development and then prioritizing it across your organization. In other words, make learning a daily practice.

To help make and reinforce lifelong learning as a habit, it’s important that you: 

  • Get leadership on board. It’s one thing to want more development opportunities for your workforce, another to implement them. For your L&D program to truly succeed, seek adoption and buy-in at the highest level. Come to your meetings armed with data to support the return on investment (ROI) of lifelong learning and a plan for how you’ll roll it out to your organization. 
  • Don’t try to be everything for everybody. Your people have diverse interests and career goals, and your learning content should be just as varied. When you’re creating your learning strategy, aim for an intersection between what workers want and what will best meet your business’s needs when planning your learning strategy.
  • Commit to a continual culture of learning. A positive learning culture is more than just offering disparate classes a few times a year or promoting employees here and there. Instead, invest in a learning experience platform (LXP) that operates on an open ecosystem, where workers can learn anytime and anywhere and track it on their profiles. Employees and their managers can see their skill development, view internal opportunities such as a new position or a stretch assignment, and work on the skills they need to succeed. 
  • Offer incentives: While workers may say they want educational opportunities, mounting to-dos can make learning less of a priority. By offering rewards for completed programs, such as a gift card or the ability to earn certificates, you’ll give your workers the extra push needed to grow their skills.

Lifelong Learning Demands Personalization

For too long, upskilling has focused on the company’s needs, not the individual’s.

Leaders relied on a “command and control” management style, forcing employees into “one-size-fits-all” training programs. Managers and Human Resource leaders dictated when, how and what people learned and tied that to a predictable ROI calculation based primarily on employee participation.

Decades of research have shown how ineffective this approach has been. More recently, leading analyst firms like the Deloitte Center for the Edge have called for a new model of work that puts individuals at the center. And as artificial intelligence and machine learning make uniquely human capabilities like communication and creative skills more valuable, companies can no longer treat people like interchangeable parts. Workers thrive with variety, fluidity and autonomy.

A Positive Learning Culture Delivers Strong ROI

As with any good business decision, it’s important to look at the ROI — and share it with your leaders. So, what’s the ROI on learning? Our data shows businesses with positive learning cultures have more engaged, better performing and more adaptable workforces

  • More utilization: People who say they work in a positive learning culture are 100% more likely to track their activity, habits and growth.
  • Better performance: People who say they work in a positive learning culture are 166% more likely to say their companies grew revenue faster than competitors. 
  • More agility: People who say they work in a positive learning culture are 101% more likely to work on a temporary assignment with another team.

Rising to the Challenge

Keeping people’s skills current is the biggest talent test of our time. But you can’t even start if they’re headed out the door. By embracing lifelong learning and upskilling your employees with self-directed development, you can meet your people where they’re at, help them build new learning habits, give them the personalized development they want and need to create business value for your entire organization.

More Articles in Learning

Let’s keep in touch.

Sign me up for the monthly newsletter with exclusive insights, upcoming events, and updates on Degreed solutions.

Your privacy is important to us. You can change your email preferences or unsubscribe at any time. We will only use the information you have provided to send you Degreed communications according to your preferences. View the Degreed Privacy Statement for more details.