I am a firm believer in lifelong learning, but how do I get my employees to embrace this value?
It is important that you are clear about what lifelong learning means to you. You may have a different idea to those outlined by the South African government, which focuses on a framework of school-like learning activities that lead to qualifications that one can work towards throughout one’s life.
I’d like to suggest that lifelong learning is more than that. It is a mindset and a habit for people to acquire. What I am talking about can be referred to as ‘self-directed learning’.
“In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes”, (Knowles, 1975).
You’ll see from the date of this quote that this is not a new idea, yet it is relevant more than ever in our workforce.
Accountability is the first step
As we move away from a political motivated, post-apartheid sense of entitlement, both government and private enterprise alike are stressing the importance of accountability in the value systems of their staff.
Self-directed learning is another by-product of this much talked about value. So, before you begin to try to instil an understanding of and love for learning, you need to instil the idea that your staff members are accountable for their own futures, for their successes and failures and those of the business they work in.
Once your employees believe that they are accountable for their own life stories, they should begin to think about their goals and what they need to do to achieve those goals. You can help them in a number of ways:
- Take the initiative: lead by example, talk to your employees about your own approach to self-directed learning, share experiences and case studies that show how easy it can be to apply
- Diagnosing their learning needs: if you don’t already have a performance management system, you need to implement one. It will provide a baseline that shows your staff what is expected of them and where there may be gaps in their knowledge or skills
- Formulating learning goals: people who engage in self-directed learning have a clear vision of what they want to achieve in life. It is important that you show your staff the benefits of personal growth, perhaps through incentive programmes or career development opportunities
- Choosing and implementing learning strategies: people have different learning styles and preferences. Some may learn best through experience, others may prefer to listen to lessons.Encourage your staff to look for daily opportunities to grow e.g. they can seek out advice from more experienced colleagues or they may observe star performers at work. Remind them that they can also learn about what not to do if they observe poor behaviour. There are many lessons to be learnt beyond the classroom.
- Evaluating learning outcomes: As part of your regular interactions with staff, ask them to outline something new that they have learnt every day, week or month. Encourage them to reflect on when, where and how they learnt. Through this evaluation, you will begin to see trends in their self-directed learning and they will be motivated by what they now see as an environment rich with learning opportunities
“Change is inevitable, complete coverage is impossible and obsolescence is unavoidable” (Author unknown). It is for these reasons that we need to continue to learn, to grow every day so that we can keep up with the world around us.