Opportunities to develop and strengthen one’s skills have become an important criterion in the selection of an employer. In the era of such quick digitalization and rapid change, companies need to re-examine their Learning & Development processes and adapt them to the new realities. This is why it makes sense to develop lifelong learning skills. It is so universal that it is useful in any environment. Especially that skills development and opportunities for retraining are the most important L&D trend in 2021.
Lifelong learning – what does it mean?
The concept of lifelong learning promotes thinking of education as an integral part of a person’s whole lifetime. After all, learning does not have to take place only in schools or at universities. It does not have to be formal or only concern professional development.
Why is it important to be a lifelong learner?
Lifelong learning is not a passing trend or just a neologism. Promoting lifelong learning has for years been one of the main objectives of the European Social Fund. UNESCO, for example, has established a special institute (UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning), researching and implementing this approach. Lifelong learning is being disseminated particularly because, in addition to the individual benefits the individual undergoing training gets, it also has a more global nature. Development-oriented people create an educated society and thus build a strong economy.
Qualified professionals will also make companies more competitive in the market. In 2010, the data did not seem optimistic. For example, the education level of Czech adults was noticeably lower than the European average. According to the “The Strategy of Lifelong Learning in the Czech Republic” report, prepared by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, statistically 42% of Europeans aged 25-64 have participated in some form of education. In the case of the Czech Republic, this group accounted for only 29%.
Lifelong learning in the age of digitalization
We all knew that the last decade was a time of huge and rapid development of new technologies. Yet, the year 2020 has unexpectedly come and has brought us a pace of digitalization, that none of us had thought of. At the beginning of last year, we did not expect that within a few months, schools and companies would go online. Most business processes have moved online, and remote work has become the norm.
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Lifelong learning in Czechia
The idea behind lifelong learning is to enable all people to develop their skills and qualifications. Especially those at risk of exclusion. An example is the situation of young mothers in the Czech Republic. The already mentioned report, “The Strategy of Lifelong Learning in the Czech Republic” showed that the number of women participating in non-formal learning is much lower than the number of men. The authors attribute the reason for this discrepancy to the difficulty of combining family care with further education. It is a good idea to enable young mothers to balance work with bringing up their children, for example, by working remotely or offering task-based working hours. In 2021, introducing such measures is far more likely to succeed.
Another group that HR departments should pay attention to are employees aged 55+. They are the ones who often face a technological barrier to their work. They also show lower motivation for further education. It is also here that the Czech Republic ranks last among the European countries in terms of formal education. Only 1.4% of the adult population participates in formal education. People over 45 very rarely participate in this form of education. Consequently, older adults are less flexible and their potential and experience are not fully used. The appropriate solution is to manage diversity in the organization so that the organizational culture is attentive to people at risk of exclusion.
How to implement lifelong learning in your organization?
Implementing lifelong learning in an organization should start with changing the way you look at Learning & Development activities. The advantages of changing this approach are shown in the report prepared by ATD Research called “Lifelong Learning. The Path to Personal and Organizational Performance”. It says that 67% of L&D Specialists agree that lifelong learning activities have a direct impact on employee engagement. Individual steps are described by Lee Perlis for the Association for Talent Development.
Step 1 – Define your learning goals
The first step should be to identify your organization’s L&D goals. They should be based on standardized L&D processes and creating shareable content. Additionally, provide opportunities for everyone to learn, regardless of location or language, tailor content to gain the skills desired for the position, and define a training budget for each individual development plan.
Step 2 – Think about savings
In this step, it’s a good idea to consider what solutions won’t strain your budget while remaining fully effective. One such solution could be an internal eLearning platform. Once created, the course can be accessed by multiple employees and kept up to date. A major advantage of this form is that it can be used from anywhere and at any time. LMS platform in your company can be a tool that accompanies the employee from the onboarding stage.
Step 3 – Bridge the skills gap
The lack of certain skills is evident both in the labor market and in individual organizations. Tailor the training content to equip employees with the skills that are not present in the company.
Step 4 – Select the tools
To introduce lifelong learning in an organization, you need tools that are easy for everyone to use that allow implementing and monitoring the process. For it is well known that success must be measured. Therefore, when implementing lifelong learning, remember to check not only the use of the training budget, but also the level of skills and knowledge of employees, their expectations, the effectiveness of onboarding, and internal recruitment. Companies that care about lifelong learning tend to choose tools that can store and analyze data related to the entire L&D department.
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Lifelong learning at work
Every company has a different culture and its employees also have different expectations. Therefore, it is important to use multiple forms of education and monitor the results they produce. Automating this process is proving to be beneficial for many companies. This way, everyone in your organization has the opportunity to build a lifelong learning attitude.