BUSINESS

Executive education: the benefits of continuous learning in the workplace

Jeremy C Bradley, Executive Director at InterActive,

Jeremy C Bradley

Jeremy C Bradley

When it comes to learning we are guided by the misconception that one is simply talking about studying in a school-like environment. However, learning is an activity that accompanies human beings throughout the durations of our lives, albeit in different ways and for myriads of reasons. Education is far from being a mere expression of schooling activity, and it concerns all individuals: students and teachers, employers and employees.

Not only is it helpful for an organisation to have knowledgeable people, it also benefits an individual’s growth and professional development within the company. Organisations should value and prioritise professional development opportunities for all staff by offering an array of relevant workshops, seminars, and courses to their employees.

Professional development (PD) can be offered in-house or vetted and organised by the human resources department if outside companies are to be used. Whatever the method, it is in everyone’s best interest for individuals to learn and grow.

Most organisations currently tend to offer PD as an afterthought. Often, participation is minimal and isn’t perceived as something the organisation encourages.

To create a continuous learning culture, leaders must lead by example. This entails either signing up for a variety of workshops and discussing them with colleagues, or running some themselves. Bringing the knowledge directly to the employee, with respect to its application in the workplace, can create great value and improve the learning culture within an organisation.

The continuous learning mantle should be taken up by one or more members of staff. This can provide an intermediary with whom to share ideas and express concerns. Providing an individual to direct other employees towards proper PD opportunities is a great way to ensure an increase in participation.

While continuous learning does, on some level, require employees to take responsibility for their own development, organisations need to also bring learning to employees. Continuous learning is essential to a productive workplace, and it can help mitigate some of the lag between industry knowledge and progress within a particular field.

However, skills shortages will always exist to some extent, because the knowledge market is needs-based – not something many employees or individuals seek proactively.

Holding one or two mandatory sessions is a good first step, and ensuring that all employees are adequately introduced to the protocols and ideas surrounding PD involvement.

A fair next step is a small requirement that encourages employees to sign up for a PD opportunity, without being overwhelming or burdensome. Though employees should ultimately take responsibility for PD that involves extended programmes and multiple courses, one-off seminars and workshops can add value while also allowing employees to fulfil a basic compulsory assignment.

An explosion in online learning, much of it offered in a more accessible format, means knowledge has been released to anyone with a smartphone or laptop. This opens a unique opportunity for organisations to work with higher education establishments and online learning providers like InterActive to power in-house learning and development solutions.

InterActive provides a full range of services to help organisations realise their learning and development objectives in today’s crowded e-learning marketplace. Our 360° online programme management service provides world-class digital content creation, dynamic programme delivery, and dedicated support – all by working in partnership with your in-house HR or L&D teams.

Forming a relationship with a local university or college can have benefits to both institutions, though setting requirements for employees to commit to a long-term programme is not good practice. Ideally, course offerings will be highlighted and recommended, though enrolling in anything formal run by a school should be left up to the employee.

The most beneficial way is to work with a service provider such as InterActive to create bespoke, in-house PD courses, tailoring your training and development offering to fit staff needs and wants.

Learning approaches by an organisation should be clear, reasonable, and forward-thinking. Based on forecasting, market trends, technological advances, and company direction, organisations should tailor their PD to fit with current and future climates. Short-term or one-off courses should be regularly offered – both in-house and externally – and employees can be required to attend one or two per year.

Long-term courses should be optional, though partnerships with universities and recommended coursework are good ways to highlight that PD in this form is encouraged.

Overall, an organisation with a culture of continuous learning develops this through exposure, access, and encouragement.

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