by Scott Bales

The modern economy is in a constant state of accelerated change both technologically and culturally. The greatest challenge for any organization or the individuals within the organization to not only survive but thrive in this environment is - “How do we create an environment that allows us to adapt with the evolving needs of skills and capabilities in the organization around new technologies?”

One way to enable this is with what we call lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is about creating an environment where individuals themselves own their personal learning journey. They own this journey across a series of diverse skills and capabilities that adapt to both your businesses needs, but also the broader economic and market needs that change throughout their journey. For instance, learning needs often occur in different sequences, at different times, depending on the individual's aspirations or knowledge desires, as they seek to either pursue their own career or to pursue internal opportunities within an organization.

Lifelong learning is not new, it's been around for several decades, it is heavily researched and heavily documented, and essentially comes down to one thing - individuals being in an environment in which continuous self driven learning is possible. The reason why it has gained so much popularity and traction now is the sheer pace of change that has been brought about by technology.

Lifelong learning is not just having available curriculums and programs but also about being able to provide recognition for those new skills acquired both internally and externally. There are several ways to do this, either through formal training or internal learning and development functions that facilitate a series of workshops or eLearning courses. Sometimes these are planned activities, embedded on a schedule and sometimes we need to allow for non formal development of skills - such as learning from failure.

Learning can be delivered in a myriad of different ways.There are multi day or even multi week programs that have been the traditional approach to workplace learning driven by learning and development functions or external training providers. What we are seeing more now is the kind of micro learning or what we call agile learning frameworks that empower skills at every micro dose, to continually give individuals the knowledge and skills within their own learning pathway.

One of the fantastic organisations we have been doing some work with recently is a company called SmartUp that does exactly that. Micro learning and micro credentials, particularly as relates to culture and capability change. One of the key parts when it comes to enabling self guided learning is creating an environment in which people want to pursue learning but also encourages them to re-engage with the platform continually.  SmartUp has successfully used the idea of bringing gamification into a micro learning or lifelong learning framework, so that the learner can answer quizzes and earn points with which they can compete against other learners in the organisation.

Lifelong learning is going to be an important skill for organisations, going forward, mainly because there is no real certainty in terms of where technology or consumer preferences is going to take the market in the coming years. And so the ability to facilitate flexible and adaptive learning frameworks is going to be vital in terms of building both employee engagement and retention, but also organisational success.

From a data and analytics perspective it gives us a glimpse into the minds of our employees. Also a way to boost their confidence overall to take on change and transformation in the market. It is a way to help them to build interpersonal skills through both virtual collaboration - whether it be on projects and learning journeys, but also particularly to give employees confidence in their future career opportunities.

Change through technology is inevitable. There is a large percentage of the workforce that fears for their career going forward, particularly as large organisations face either cutbacks or retrenchments, so giving people the ability to own their own future is as vitally important to building the morale and capability of an organizatio.n

At the end of the day, it really comes down to building an environment where people are motivated to pursue their own goals, whether that be to get a bigger paycheck or a promotion or whether it's to drive their own mastery in a particular topics that they are passionate about.

The important thing is to give employees the opportunity to own their own learning journeys as this will be key to building the future workforces for the future organization. One that not only survives but thrives in a disrupted and constantly evolving marketplace.

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