Cultivating a Business Culture that Encourages Lifelong Learning - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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lifelong learning

Cultivating a Business Culture that Encourages Lifelong Learning

What if lifelong learning promised steady increases in the quality-of-life for your family, better earning power, increased recognition, guaranteed career advancement and greater job satisfaction? That’s certainly something that would make most people rethink their educational strategies. Well, guess what? Ongoing learning, personal development, and training offer all of these benefits and more. In business, lifelong learning protects workers from downsizing, layoffs, mergers, technology upgrades and greater collaboration practices. In your personal life, lifelong learning can help you master new technologies, social media, digital communications and many other interpersonal skills. That’s why lifelong learning tips could prove invaluable for career advancement and quality-of-life issues.

What Is Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning means more than expanded earning capacity. Companies and individuals stand to gain astonishing economic benefits by promoting a culture of lifelong learning, but many workers respond more to personal development, enhanced job satisfaction and the pride of learning new skills. That’s why lifelong learning tips should include those that promote the economic and personal benefits of lifelong education. The core concept of lifelong learning is ‘It’s never too early or too late to learn.’ Lifelong learning tips, when implemented by HR departments and marketing organisations, should focus on training capable candidates regardless of their ages. Workers should be provided with appealing and productive opportunities to advance their careers and achieve their personal goals regardless of their ages.

Learning is a continuous process and includes active and passive brain processes. Lifelong learning involves learning new skills, absorbing new information, changing personal attitudes, upgrading education in other areas, earning industry certifications and tackling new challenges. Lifelong learning tips usually focus on the financial benefits of education because these are powerful motivators. However, lifelong learning opportunities can help in lateral career movement, retraining programs for greater job flexibility and fostering better communication skills for personal and job-related efforts in today’s digital culture.

The Extraordinary Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning has become not only desirable but essential in today’s rapidly evolving digital culture. Pew Research Centre found that 16 percent of Americans no longer believe that a single four-year degree prepares students for landing lucrative and satisfying jobs. [1] Each additional year of education results in an average increase of between 8 percent and 13 percent in hourly wages.

Lifelong learning has become much easier for today’s workers than it was in past generations. Digital technology, social and peer-to-peer networks, internal collaboration tools and online educational courses make it easier than ever to pursue an enhanced education. The benefits of lifelong learning include:

  • Keeping the brain healthy and receptive to new information
  • Fighting boredom
  • Improving self-confidence
  • Increasing ability to use quality-of-life technology
  • Learning practical life skills
  • Staying healthy
  • Researching health issues or finding out how to make household repairs
  • Adapting more easily to changes
  • Meeting new friends and communicating in social forums
  • Fostering self-fulfilment

 

Fixed Versus Growth Mindsets

Regardless of your job or industry, sticking to good work habits and developing new skills are complex challenges for even the brightest and most dedicated people. However, you’ve got an ace in the hole – your mind. Brain power can enable incredible feats, behavioural changes, and lifelong learning capacity, but your beliefs also play major roles in what you can accomplish. Scientists classify learning and growth into two schools of thought: fixed and growth mindsets.

Carol Dweck of Stanford University first referred to these two mindsets in her seminal book, ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.’ In the book, Dweck observed, ‘In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.’

Fixed Mindset: What if Lifelong Learning Stopped?

What if lifelong learning stopped at a predefined age or level of development? There would be no progress beyond that date, and people could only hope to retain what they’d learned and not lose too much to attrition, loss of brain cells and the aging process. Fortunately, this limit to learning is not true except in cases of extraordinary injuries, but many people develop the mindset that they can’t learn new skills beyond certain ages or levels of accomplishment. These workers believe that their intelligence level, talents, and abilities are fixed and that nothing can change the upward limits. People with this mindset often avoid new challenges, give up after failing once and seek constant validation of those skills that they do possess.

Growth Mindset: What if Lifelong Learning Persists Throughout Your Career and Life?

What if lifelong learning is always possible given intelligence and time limitations? The growth mindset, as postulated by Dweck, believes that talents and abilities can always be developed throughout life. That doesn’t mean that everyone can become another Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein but that anyone can improve his or her abilities by making a commitment to lifelong learning. People who have this mindset take risks, thrive on new challenges and commit to personal and career development. As an employer, any organisation can cultivate this attitude in its core culture, and these efforts can change the attitudes of even the most extreme advocates of the fixed-mindset attitude.

The Science of Lifelong Learning

Scientifically, the ability of the brain to grow, develop and learn is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. Lifelong learning tips can help to develop this kind of plasticity, which helps workers to develop new skills, cross-train in different areas, accept changes in corporate practices and gain personal benefits such as preventing Alzheimer’s and other mental disorders that accompany the aging process. Brain fitness is just as important as physical fitness for generating health, well-being and job satisfaction.

Every animal has an ideal window of opportunity for learning survival skills and internal abilities. However, these optimal windows only apply to the most basic skills. People can continue to advance their mental skills – if not their physical abilities – for most of their lives barring certain medical conditions and accidents.

Biological factors can limit native physical and mental abilities, but few people ever approach these limits. Most people can improve their abilities throughout their lives, and the brain changes constantly for those who continue to learn.  The emerging field of neuroscience is making continuous discoveries about how to increase brain plasticity and learning abilities. Nature and nurture affect the brain’s learning potential, but nurturing the brain doesn’t stop at adolescence.

Genetic predispositions set limits, but anyone can learn new information or train in another field of endeavour to increase their ‘Renaissance’ skills. The pattern of brain development is similar between genders and races, but your experience could favour absorbing knowledge in specific areas. For example, cab drivers appear to have more grey matter in the area of the brain that controls memory and navigation. This suggests that learning can increase the brain’s capacity.

Lifelong Learning Tips

There are many approaches to fostering a company culture of lifelong learning; lifelong learning tips include fostering greater organisational opportunities for developing new skills and increasing personal knowledge. The following lifelong learning tips can be used by anyone for personal or work development, and savvy managers can use these lifelong learning tips to create a work culture of learning and development:

  1. Embracing the Growth Mindset
    This is the single most effective way to expand the possibilities of lifelong learning. It’s critical to accept that learning is possible regardless of your age.
  2. Recognising that Challenges Generate Opportunities
    Any salesperson who has studied the sales process has been exposed to the concept that challenges and objections create sales opportunities. The same is true in other areas. Overcoming the challenges of learning and developing new skills generates business, career and personal opportunities. Charles R. Swindoll quoted, ‘We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.’ Failure provides a learning experience that helps anyone to avoid future mistakes while learning to persevere against challenging odds.
  3. Setting Goals
    Goals aren’t just business or career goals; they should be life goals. Lifelong learning goals should be voluntary and self-motivated. When you really want to learn about something, the process becomes easier. You begin asking appropriate questions before the course provides the answers. When you commit to lifelong learning, setting interim goals becomes more practical and strategic. It’s important to set realistic goals so that you don’t get discouraged. The goals should also be measurable and fulfill other SMART goal imperatives: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-specific.
  4. Embracing Intellectual Curiosity
    Children possess an innate sense of wonder, which is probably why they learn so quickly. Curiosity can be cultivated, and developing intellectual curiosity makes learning easier, promotes mindfulness, develops leadership skills, encourages empathy and increases success in collaborative projects. It’s important to ask questions when you don’t understand or are uncertain whether you do. This prevents you from following any new material under false assumptions, which could generate problems later.
  5. Reading Frequently
    Reading promotes learning, and you aren’t limited to educational materials. Regardless of whether you enjoy fiction, fashion, sports or the latest news, reading about your favourite topic helps you continue to learn and develop brain plasticity.
  6. The Anti-Library Approach of Umberto Eco
    Umberto Eco, celebrated author and scholar, owned a library of more than 30,000 books.  Visitors often praised the library ecstatically and questioned how many of the books the author had read. Eco suggested that the importance and value of the library relied on how many books he hadn’t read. If you hope to grow, you need access to research materials, educational courses and communication platforms.
  7. Getting Connected
    One of the most effective ways to learn is to ensure that important information comes directly to you. You can do this by communicating with your peers, joining industry groups, setting alerts for new information about your favourite topics and networking with colleagues, critics and industry experts.
  8. Using Technology
    Today’s social media and digital technologies make it easier to filter, sort and curate topics of interest, which increases the time you can spend on reading and reacting to blog posts, articles, interviews, case studies and industry statistics.
  9. Developing Micro Learning Habits
    It’s important to learn something new each day to maintain your intellectual curiosity and exercise your brain.
  10. Interacting with Other Learners
    Seek people who share your interests. There are two methods of learning: experiential and reflective. The first method is learning by doing, and reflective learning relies on talking things over or otherwise communicating with others. Regardless of your learning preference, developing a group of like-minded associates broadens your ability to learn. Everyone encounters issues that he or she doesn’t understand, and talking things over with a colleague can prove invaluable in the learning process.
  11. Laughing and Having Fun
    Learning doesn’t always have to be serious. Even in life-and-death technology applications, enjoying your work and having fun can prevent stress and reduce making mistakes.
  12. Sharing Insights
    Sharing what you learn encourages others to share their insights with you. Sharing also helps you to remember what you’ve learned.
  13. Practicing New Skills and Reviewing What You Learn
    You need to practice any new skills and review new knowledge periodically to retain the information or skill sets. Practice and review can help to commit new information to long-term memory.
  14. Finding your AHA Moment Through Tactical Serendipity
    The title characters of ‘Three Princes of Serendib,’ which is modern-day Sri Lanka, always made amazing discoveries by accident and fortuitous circumstances. In today’s fast-moving business climate, recognising serendipitous circumstances and opportunities can advance your education, so it’s important to note these opportunities when they arise. There are three types of serendipitous discoveries:

    • Unintended discoveries
    • Discoveries that are sought after but found by accident
    • Discoveries that fulfil other purposes than those originally planned

Lifelong learning occurs naturally as a basic reaction to life’s stimuli. You can enhance your learning power with lifelong learning tips and the wide assortment of learning opportunities that digital technology has generated. Progressive business leaders understand the value of cultivating internal talent and encouraging personal and career development among staff generates many business benefits.

Ari Kopoulos
ari@employeeconnect.com

CEO at EmployeeConnect