Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The importance of lifelong learning, and how to foster it in your corporate culture

Staying ahead of the curve is tougher than ever. In fact, sometimes it’s all you can do to keep up with changing technology. In an ideal world, you’d hire a person who does one thing really well, and they might do that one thing for their entire career.


The skills you learned in school that got you that first job may have been applicable for several years, but that’s not the case anymore. From advertising to Zamboni repair, technology requires us all to be in a continual state of learning.


Henry Ford said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty." What was true then, is even truer now. Creating an environment where your employees continue to learn shouldn’t be thought of as merely a perk. It should be considered a must. And in our ever-changing business climate, it is a win-win. Here’s how to make learning work for you and your team:


Retain


Offering continued education is a great incentive when you’re hiring. It’s also an excellent way to retain the people you already have on board. Your best employees want to stay at the forefront of your industry, and to keep their skills sharp so as to contribute at a high level. If you’re not providing that opportunity or encouraging them to do so, they may go elsewhere. When you consider the cost of hiring and training someone new, you are better off investing that money in members of your existing team. Someone who wants to learn more is someone you want to keep. Facilitating their growth shows that you value your employees, and gives them something to value in return.


Reward


Team chemistry is vitally important to the success of any business. Be sure to reward those employees who express a desire to share what they are learning during their course of education. When you offer tuition reimbursement, you are in a sense, paying to have that knowledge imported and spread throughout your business. One enlightened employee can share their newfound wisdom at internal seminars, workshops, and training sessions, saving you money from having to hire outside contractors and instructors.


Revitalize


Tomorrow’s must-have skills are built upon the innovations of today. A recent article in Fast Company points out that thriving in today’s unpredictable climate requires the ability to embrace change. To quote the article, “Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.” Perhaps more than any other offering, educating your employees arms them with the tools to succeed.



Of course, continual learning is not just for your employees. It should be number one on your to-do list, as well. If you don’t have time for formal classes, there are several online courses and tutorials that can be affordable, or even free of charge. Sites like Lynda.com can be an economical learning resource for you and your company, offering many very specialized and personalized courses of study.



Are you doing all you can to foster lifelong learning in your company and in your life? Share your tips and advice.

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