What Does “Continuous Learning” Mean?

A growing movement towards ongoing employee training is helpful. Discussion often overlooks what it looks like on the ground.

Bersin by Deloitte has written about continuous learning for years, and we’re seeing more and more CLOs, writers and trainers talk about the importance of continuous learning. Like alot of high-level ideas, there’s nothing contentious about it, apart from perhaps the cost of continuously engaging learners in company-led programs.

At a time when employees typically have just 1% of the typical work week to focus on learning, they are clearly not going to proactively design what they should learn, find how to learn it, then engage with that content. They need help.

The ATD has a few publications on the matter, one in particular I found to be helpful, in that the author, Joanne Wells treats continuous learning both strategically and with tactical advice. I paraphrase and add a bit to some of her points below:

Get your learning strategy right — figure out what you want your workforce to learn. Set a plan, communicate the plan (then keep communicating it). By letting employees know what management will value, it will guide their decisions, both informal and formal, about what to pay attention to. Its worth noting that in today’s infinite sea of information, we spend almost every waking moment looking for, or consuming, content of some kind.

Empower Coaches — Front line workers aren’t utilized enough. An old colleague, David Langston, used to refer to these folks as the ‘sergeants’ in the company. They set the tone, enforce the culture, and guide the millions of decisions that together create the company’s success.

Front line coaches are critical, but so are skip-level mentors that can provide broader perspective and guidance for learners.

Provide resources & time — Both formal and informal, required and elective, resources are needed to empower employees to learn in an ongoing process. Require things that are mission critical, and support subjects that are additive.

Do it together — making learning & improvement part of your company’s culture is of obvious importance. The commitment this requires is easy to overlook, and even easier to let slip when things get busy. Don’t.

Leverage technology — the old LMS-as-central-repository model isn’t necessary anymore. Mobile solutions like Aquinas Training make continuous learning easy for L & D departments to encourage, while MOOCs and countless other emerging platforms make micro-credentials easy and inexpensive to provide.

Continuous Learning means formal and informal company-led efforts to encourage, empower and engage employees in their own journey of improvement and development.