•   Article   •   4 mins

How (and Why) to Build a Culture of Lifelong Learning

Learning doesn’t end after high school or college. And it certainly doesn’t end when someone enters the workforce. The shelf life of skills in today’s world of work is short, and people need to keep learning to advance their careers. 

In one study, 87% of companies reported seeing or expecting a skills gap in their organization. When employees and employers understand and embrace lifelong learning, they’re in a better position to weather the rapid change sweeping across workplaces globally. Employees invested in lifelong learning can keep their skills up-to-date and build job security. But they’re not the only ones to benefit. Organizations can also see big returns when they invest in L&D with a long-term view. 

Indeed, supporting a culture of continuous learning is a key to innovation and growth. 

The Manager’s Guide to a Positive Learning Culture

What is lifelong learning? 

Among its many distinctive traits, lifelong learning — unlike a mandated curriculum or required compliance training — is employee-motivated. It happens when people pursue learning on their own for personal or professional reasons, and it includes formal and informal education. 

Lifelong learners are looking to not just pass a test but to gain personal fulfillment. They’re driven to learn about topics and skills that interest them and will serve their goals. That might look like:

  • Learning a new skill online; for example, cooking a different type of cuisine or programming a computer using web tutorials and YouTube videos.
  • Participating in formal continuing education or certification programs
  • Completing employer-provided training courses 
  • Learning on the job from more experienced coworkers
  • Pursuing a formal degree through a university or other degree-granting program

If you want to create a positive learning culture, keep an open mind about what constitutes learning.

Why You Should Make Ongoing Learning a Top Priority

If iifelong learning is important to your employees, make it important to you too. Continuous learning is a source of personal fulfillment. When employees can pursue passions, hobbies and skills that feed their interests, they feel empowered at work and more engaged. In turn, their quality of life improves and they become more apt to take on their own career development and grow within your organization.

That’s not all, though. Supporting ongoing learning gives you as an employer a competitive edge. Here’s how:

Build a competent, dedicated workforce.

Advances in technology and the new normal of hybrid or remote workplaces mean employee skills must constantly evolve. Helping people learn ensures they’re competent in their current jobs and prepared for the next step. What’s more, our own research shows businesses with positive learning cultures have more engaged, productive and adaptable workforces. Embrace continuous learning in your company culture to build a happier, more productive team.

Boost recruitment and retention. 

Creating a culture of lifelong learning helps you attract and retain top talent. The shift to more remote work has radically changed work priorities and habits. Employers have seen record turnover as people are free to pursue a wider pool of job opportunities. 

So what are people looking for from their ideal employer? One study of people who recently left a job found one of the top reasons for quitting was a lack of opportunities for learning and growth. Top talent seeks employers that prioritize professional growth and gives people a chance to own their own development. 

3 Ways to Build a Culture of Continuous Learning

Lifelong learning is employee-driven and focused on individual interests. But that doesn’t mean employers and L&D teams can’t have influence. As a learning leader, you have a unique opportunity to support employees in their pursuits. You can build a culture of learning in three ways: 

1. Start with the right platform.

Invest in a learning experience platform (LXP) that offers a wide range of learning options and lets people learn anytime and anywhere. Instead of only offering prescribed courses and set curricula, provide a library of learning resources employees can access to fit the range of their needs and interests. The Degreed LXP has been proven to boost learning ROI by making learning available to all your employees instantly — accelerating upskilling across your workforce.

2. Make learning a part of the employee experience.

Even when learning is a priority, employees can get overwhelmed with daily work tasks that bump it down the list of things to get done. Make it easy for people to take advantage of learning by ensuring that it’s part of their day-to-day workflow:

  • Build in time for learning during the workday so people aren’t left trying to fit it in after hours. Don’t make it a burden on their work-life balance.
  • Encourage employees to set learning goals as well as performance goals, so they see you value their development as much as their contributions.
  • Recognize and reward learning accomplishments. Even simple rewards like gift cards or certificates can motivate behavior.
  • Set up times at work when employees can come together to collaborate and help each other learn.

Also, demonstrate your dedication to learning by scheduling it while employees are on the clock.

3. Offer personalized learning.

Motivate people by tailoring their learning options to their needs and interests. Your learning platform can use employees’ talent profiles to suggest relevant courses and learning paths. It’s also a good idea to ask employees directly about their goals to inform their learning paths. Encourage them to share their interests and future job goals to get more personalized recommendations. Keep employees’ interest in learning high by giving them content that’s relevant to their jobs and in line with their interests.

Lifelong learning benefits everyone.

Keeping people’s skills current is a big challenge, but meeting that challenge head-on will keep your company on the leading edge of business as the workplace continues to evolve. Take steps now to build a workplace that attracts lifelong learners and helps them thrive. 

Degreed gives you the insights and tools to support critical upskilling and reskilling and ensure an engaged and dedicated workforce.

Want to learn more? Schedule a personalized Degreed demo today.

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