Employee Development

How Continuous Learning Helps Your Organization Adapt and Thrive

Aristotle once wrote “Some of the sensible substances are generally admitted to be substances, so that we must look first among these. For it is an advantage to advance to that which is more knowable. For learning proceeds for all in this way-through that which is less…”

… You know what – why don’t we just distill it down for you:

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

There’s a less verbose interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy in Metaphysics, and it’s especially true in an era where expert advice is often undervalued, and weekend scientists populate YouTube with videos questioning established facts like the shape of the Earth.

These videos often make the argument that because science changes its various theories and models occasionally, it is inaccurate.

This argument ignores a very important fact that is the key to all knowledge (and has clear workplace applications): knowledge is constantly evolving, and as we learn more each and every day, our understanding must evolve as well, lest we get left behind with outdated information.

You can ask any employee in any department how much their job has evolved in the past several years, and you’ll find startling results. Many sales departments now use machine learning to qualify leads and uncover pain points, warehouses now use voice-operated devices to manage inventory, and the amount of data available to human resources, marketing, product development, and many other fields is staggering.

Any employee working exclusively off of information or skills that were prominent five years ago is not working at full capacity. Thus, it is in the best interest of companies to prioritize continuous learning and improvement, because when employees become stuck in their ways, the entire company stagnates.

What Is Continuous Learning?

We define continuous learning as a constant state of acquiring new knowledge that will evolve the processes and strategies used by companies. This state involves everyone from individual contributors and frontline managers to C-suite leaders.

At BizLibrary, this philosophy is ingrained in our culture through one of our core values, written on walls and websites and constantly repeated in meetings of all sizes: “Smarter Every Day.”

Employees who take time to learn from their mistakes and others are continuously learning. Employees who access online learning tools to pick up new skills are also continuously learning. There are a number of ways to facilitate continuous learning, but simply having the methods available won’t guarantee your employees engage in continuous learning.

Instead, develop a strategy to promote continuous learning in your workplace. If you have an LMS that allows for it, you can gamify learning so employees can engage in some friendly competition while improving their knowledge.

Encourage employees to share knowledge freely, and perhaps most importantly, tell the stories of employees who are continually taking advantage of learning opportunities. A perfect time to share the stories of your continuous learners is when you announce promotions – share details about why you promoted a certain individual and emphasize the personal growth and learning that took that person from one role to another.

Finally, make it culturally uncomfortable to not learn. At team meetings, encourage employees to share something they learned in the previous week. Employees who can confidently explain something new they learned will fit in with a culture of continuous learning, while employees who have not bothered to learn will quickly receive a message: in this culture, we want you to improve and grow.

What Happens to Organizations That Don’t Continuously Improve?

Organizations who ignore the importance of continuous learning rarely last – at least not anywhere other than memories.

Blockbuster is a prime example of this: using outdated market research and refusing to adapt (learning the skills that would give them a competitive advantage against the then-upstart Netflix) doomed the company.

The good news is that organizations that do focus on continuous learning are often the most successful.

Apple is one example here: using cutting-edge design, paired with thorough market research, they designed the iPhone, taking their stock prices from $122 in 2007 to around $400 today, helping them become the first trillion dollar company in history.

Offer the Right Tools so Employees Receive Trustworthy Information

Learning tools are best used in conjunction with a solid training and development strategy.

Sending your employees into the wild west of the internet to quench their thirst for knowledge can be disastrous. A survey of people at a Flat Earth Convention (how ironic that we mention both Aristotle and Flat Earth in the same article) found that almost everyone in attendance first came to believe in a Flat Earth after watching YouTube videos.

The internet is a place where misinformation and even hoaxes thrive, and without vetted information from trusted sources, your employees could be receiving the wrong information, resulting in misunderstandings of all shapes and sizes. 

Consider a web developer at your organization, who is looking for ways to make authentication (logging in) for your clients more secure. After a quick Google search, they probably come across this thread from stackoverflow.com:

stackoverflow example

In case you’re wondering, stackoverflow.com is a website where developers go to collaborate and share information. Because the forum contains hundreds of thousands of threads, many programming questions are archived and answered in the threads. The website is so popular that a study of 60,000 developers discovered 74% of them use the website at least once a week.

Here’s a question that few of those 60,000 developers likely asked themselves: who, exactly, is answering my question? How much experience do they have? For trivial matters, Stackoverflow is a great resource – but for something as important as website security, leaving the information up to a stranger on the internet is flat out dangerous.

The right tools must use advice and knowledge presented by subject matter experts with proven experience. Without giving employees access to vetted learning resources, your organization may be vulnerable to building processes and completing tasks based on bad advice.

Continuous learning is a need for all companies, and through the right mix of learning tools and strategies, you can bring valuable and effective transformation to your workplace!

There are many vendors ready and waiting to help you make continuous learning a reality in your workplace, with a variety of solutions to fit your organizational wants and needs.

We’ve put together a free guide to help you assess these solutions and choose a learning partner who can help you develop solid strategies to deliver training that moves your organization forward.

Check out the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Online Learning Solutions here:

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.