According to the Cambridge Dictionary, lifelong learning is the process of gaining knowledge and skills throughout your life, often to help you do your job properly. But is it just that? Actually, it is a commitment towards constant personal and professional development by means of various ways of acquiring information, outside the common schooling type of learning.
As we have all experienced, learning happens all the time and it is one of the constants in our life. But what does lifelong learning implies? First of all, it is voluntary. One gets involved in the process of acquiring information as a volitional act towards constantly improving oneself. Then, it is self-motivated and often self-taught. When you recognise your own personal interests and goals and start searching for resources and ways to get involved, the motivation comes from within. This continuous search for knowledge challenges our ideas and beliefs and makes us more adaptable, as we keep ourself ready to change.
A concept similar to the one of lifelong learning is that of continuous learning. Sometimes, they are used interchangeably, but actually they imply some differences. As we’ve mentioned, lifelong learning is usually linked with an individual level and a personal approach towards education, while the continuous learning approach is highly linked with the professional development, turning into a culture which organisations should promote. However, a lifelong learning is someone who adds a continuous learning to their lifestyle.
Thus, why is continuous learning important for organisations? Well, corporations along with their employees must stay competitive in today’s global marketplace which constantly comes with new challenges and requirements, imposing a constant renewal of the skills and knowledge at the level of workforce and their professional development. Basically, innovation is impossible in the absence of learning. Also, professional development should be aimed at by every person who wants to make the most of his or her skills and knowledge.
Why would organisations aim to create a continuous learning culture? First of all, in the context of this continuous change characterising the business environment, employers are looking for people with transferable skills, easy to adapt in conditions of change. And only people who focus on professional development can do that. Also, more highly skilled and knowledgeable workers represent an asset to any company, so corporations should make sure that a learning culture is implemented within their organisation.
What else? An effective learning culture reflects on the employee performance, satisfaction and retention because the more they know, the more employees can contribute to the organisation which makes them feel valuable and appreciated.
But how do corporation implement this culture? First of all, by encouraging ideas and valuing personal and professional development. Then, by providing their employees with training programs that meet their learning needs and help them complete their tasks faster and more efficiently. They can also create learning paths, which are easily accessible while using an eLearning platform which provides its users with the means to create these professional development paths.
Another essential component of an effective learning culture is the social learning approach, which means that employees can share their expertise, ideas and experience to one another, professionally growing together. Professional development also involves learning from other professional in your working field, from their hands-on experience. However, the self-directed learning should not be excluded, as it is the key to never stop acquiring, both knowledge and skills.
Learning and professional development should be a constant in everyone’s life, helping all of us growing, both for the sake of our own development and for accomplishing the goal of keeping up with the global business environment around us.