How Employers Can Facilitate Employee Lifelong Learning
Employees Can Pursue Lifelong Learning Both Internally and Externally
Are you aware of the significant role that lifelong learning plays in the lives of your employees? You want employees who come to work the first day prepared to do their jobs. But, very few jobs remain the same for more than a few months, let alone years. And even if the position doesn’t change, employees aren’t generally happy to do the same thing, over and over again.
So, your business and the employees want and need training and development. But, it’s more than just training and development—employees want to pursue lifelong learning.
What is Lifelong Learning?
When you were in school, your teachers made an effort to teach you something new every single day. But, as an adult, no one is standing over you to make sure that you don’t stagnate. Lifelong learning acknowledges that there is always something more to learn and that education is a good thing.
With lifelong learning, you develop new skills, understand new ideas, and gain a greater understanding of the world around you. Lifelong learning can also help you understand why other people think the way that they do. Understanding how people think may not change your mind (or theirs), but, at least, you will understand their point of view.
What Can an Employer Do to Facilitate Employee Lifelong Learning?
Employers should, absolutely, offer formal training and development within the company. This training should directly relate to the jobs, career paths, and the direction in which the company is headed. This can include job-related training and general business climate and culture development.
So, for example, you may send HR managers to a conference that will help them learn HR best practices. Or, you may bring in a speaker to talk to the HR staff and managers about how new legislation will impact the company.
Formal, career-directed training isn’t the only opportunity that an employer can, or should, provide. Plenty of learning opportunities that can help employees become better people that aren’t exclusively focused on the jobs at hand are available. Here are ways to help your employees learn as they go throughout life.
Conferences for Lifelong Learning
Conference fees can be expensive with tuition, travel, and expenses, so it’s vital that you have a good reason for sending an employee. But industry or career based conferences can provide a veritable Niagara Falls worth of new information in a short time period.
And, the positive aspect of conferences is that numerous presentations and break out sessions that may cover topics you didn’t even know you needed to learn are offered. An attendee can come back from a conference better able to attack your current issues. They may also have attained an understanding of the issues that might happen in the future.
Webinars for Lifelong Learning
Webinars are generally one time courses that are targeted to a specific area of learning. A webinar is an online seminar that an employee can attend to obtain information about any subject.
The employee can generally attend using a myriad of formats that might suit their learning needs. Webinars are often a great way to brush up on one specific skill or gain an introduction to an industry change. They are usually low cost or free and your employees can take them using any computer.
Online Courses or MOOCs Help Employees' Lifelong Learning
Unlike a webinar, which is usually a one-time seminar, an online course can mimic a college level course. MOOCs, which stands for “Massive Open Online Course” tend to take place over several weeks or months. These are often a great, low cost, way to help an employee gain new skills and understanding.
If, for instance, you have an employee who has excellent management potential, but has no knowledge of the financial sides of the business, an online course may allow her to learn those new skills without taking too much time away from work and home.
Lunch and Learns Stress Employee Lifelong Learning
Lunch and learns (or brown bag lunches as they are frequently called) are provided in a more casual learning environment. You can ask a current staff member to lead them, or you can bring in an expert. (Prepare to pay for the latter.)
You can use a lunch and learn to explain changes in your health insurance benefits or to talk about world trends that affect your business. The possibilities for topics for your brown bag lunches are as endless as your imagination.
Remember that the best way to understand the needs of your employees for lifelong learning is to ask them what they want to learn. Better? Appoint a team to identify and lead brown bag learning opportunities.
Lifelong Learning and Lifelong Teaching
The above ideas all involve your employees sitting back and learning, but you can also consider encouraging your employees to more actively pursue their lifelong learning by teaching a webinar or leading a lunch and learn. Not only will other employees benefit, but your employee will learn and understand their topic area even better if they are called upon to teach it.
It’s also good PR for your company if your HR manager offers a free webinar on FMLA to other HR managers. This builds your company as a brand of choice for potential employees. Consider this as an option when you develop your culture of lifelong learning.
Formal Education Has a Role in Lifelong Learning
Many forward-thinking companies that value employee lifelong learning provide tuition reimbursement programs that allow employees to obtain a degree or certification. These are very popular with employees and can help your employees to gain knowledge and skills. They are the most expensive option, so if you want to help pay for this, make sure you tie the reimbursement to good grades and to retention.
The Importance of Lifelong Learning Outside of the Business
While your focus at work is always on the business, your employees have a life outside of work. Promoting learning can help them live happier and more fulfilled lives. Happier employees are better employees.
As part of your benefits package, provide discounts for local museums or theaters and other learning opportunities. Support a monthly lunchtime book club. Expand your lunch and learns for any topic of interest. Learning about new topics and challenges is always good for employees, even if they're not directly related to the business.