Talent Development

Why Should Employers Invest in Continuous Learning?

By Colman LydonDecember 24, 2014

How will your organization stay competitive in a world of lightning-fast technological and social change?

Providing good training is part of the solution, of course, but many experts are warning that traditional leadership and development models need to be updated to provide the continuous learning experience that employees need.

In this post, we’ll look at what that means, why it’s important, and what you can do to develop a continuous learning culture in your organization.

What’s Unique About Continuous Learning

One of the key HR trends for 2014 highlighted by Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte was the need for organizations to develop more integrated L&D models, focusing more on continuous learning than on one-off training programs.

“If you believe in skills specialization, then you have to adopt what we call a ‘continuous learning model’,” he wrote, “one in which people receive some amount of formal training, coupled with a significant amount of coaching, support by experts, developmental assignments, development planning, and management support.”

You’re probably familiar with the 70-20-10 model, where 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% is through coaching and mentoring, and 10% is through formal education. But what Bersin envisions goes even further, seeking to create a learning culture that permeates all levels of the organization and includes rotations, coaching, mentoring, social networking and more.

As the following chart shows, these continuous interventions help people to retain what they learn and constantly add to their knowledge so that they become experts in their field. This is in contrast to traditional training, where research suggests that 90% of new skills are lost within a year.



Why It Matters

Of course, you want to give your employees the best possible chance to develop. But here’s why it’s particularly important right now.

Labor markets are tightening, not just because of an improving economy but also because of generational shifts, particularly the retirement of millions of Baby Boomers. The Conference Board recently warned of a 15-year period of growing talent shortages.

143In such an environment, hiring practices of course are important, but perhaps even more crucial is what happens after you hire people. Given that talent is likely to become scarcer, retaining your talented employees and making sure they reach their full potential takes on new significance.

The good news is that personal development opportunities such as training, coaching and mentoring can help greatly with retention. A study by Reed Consulting found that lack of development was 3 times as influential as any other factor in employees’ decisions to leave. Employers underestimated the importance of personal and career development, vastly overestimating the importance of salary and benefits.

How You Can Implement Continuous Learning

So what does all this mean? What does continuous learning look like in practice, and what steps can you take to implement it?

Bersin recommends developing a new “learning architecture” that makes use of new technologies and methods to supplement what you already offer. For example, you could consider partnering with technology providers to offer your employees access to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which we’ve discussed in a previous post. Also focus on providing the kind of content-rich experience that people have come to expect, including mobile-friendly content, gamification and more.

And it’s important to bring everything into a single easy-to-use interface. Companies often have hundreds of different training programs, online tools, manuals, forums and so on, all scattered around in different places. For continuous learning to become truly part of employees’ daily experience, it must all be brought together to create a resource that people use all the time, a place where they know they can find everything from the answer to a quick technical question to long-term training and education opportunities.

For the mentoring component of the continuous learning model, our experience has been that while an effective mentoring program can have huge benefits, companies sometimes struggle to make mentoring work. We’ve identified 6 common mistakes that companies often make when designing their mentoring programs. To find out what those mistakes are and how to avoid them, download this free white paper.


Colman Lydon

Colman Lydon

VP of Customer Success at Everwise

About the Author

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