Lifelong learning takes on many forms – of purposes both professional and personal – ranging from “do it yourself” projects on Pinterest to courses at community centers to formal corporate training sessions. Learning is not a temporary fix; it is a lifelong process.
New and continuing research pointedly illustrates learning over the course of a lifetime. Pew Research Center reported that 73 percent of adults consider themselves lifelong learners. Further, 74 percent of these adults are personal learners and 63 percent of these employed adults are professional learners. The outcomes of and attitudes towards lifelong learning are different for professional and personal learners. People who continually advance their personal knowledge tend to feel more capable and well rounded. Those who have taken or received professional training feel as if their job skills and expertise have improved in connection with overall career advancement.
Learning is certainly extensive among adults, both personally and professionally. If an organisation does not offer employees some source of training, these employees will most likely seek digital learning and development elsewhere. There are several consequences to this: feelings of underappreciation, misinformation, or knowledge inconsistency. The bottom line is, people want to learn. Current employees that do not have access to training within their organisation will find it through external sources, creating an asymmetry of organisational skill sets and attitudes.
Why are Professionals Seeking Digital Learning?
There are a number of reasons why professionals seek additional training. From career growth to job insecurity, employees have their own set of incentives for ongoing professional L&D. Internet availability influences digital learning as well. Adults who have Internet access at home or at work are more likely to be professional learners.
Maintaining and Improving Professional Skills
If anything, technology has proven itself to be malleable. As cultural and individual needs change, so does the underlying technology. Likewise, we have seen a reversal of this nature where norms and general day-to-day processes change in favor of technological adaptations. As such, the professional skills required for a multiplicity of industries and professions have evolved, whether they’ve expired, reformed, or become supplemented.
Professionals are certainly aware of the skills they need to maintain and improve upon to succeed. Digital and technical literacy skills are vital. Moreover, it’s no longer enough to be proficient in basic software suites like Microsoft Office or Adobe. Rather, those that can master technology and implement automated processes into workflows to save personnel time are recognised in their endeavors of pushing beyond basic expectancies. Organisations need to be open to hearing employees’ opinions on emerging technologies, and should consistently deliver training in support of technology rollouts.
However, technological savviness is not the only desirable professional skill professionals look to improve upon. Communication skills are favorable by many employers. This is especially the case for listening skills. As Entrepreneur points out, we’re never fully taught how to listen as much as we are to speak. Many people don’t know how to transmit messages. Effective listening requires more than just hearing. Training exercises on how to listen and communicate (written and verbally) are frequently eye-opening for employees needing improvement. Effective listening can best be utilised by employees wanting to maintain their listening and communication skills with colleagues and customers over in-person, digital, and other communication channels.
It should come as no surprise that money is a major player for professionals in pursuit of additional L&D. Bonuses, promotions, and raises are extrinsic motivators for continuing professional learning. Flexible and adaptable individuals who are able to manage multiple priorities are likely to be promoted as trusted organisational leaders. This is not to be confused with multitasking. Comparatively, professionals who can prioritise and juggle multiple concurrent projects also exhibit stronger organisational skills.
Sprucing up and strengthening these skills, along with interpersonal skills (email, phone, chat, video, person-to-person), helps to mold tenacious leaders and managers. L&D professionals can cater to specific individuals who show leadership promise through content created around goal driving, team mobilisation, and coaching. This presents an opportunity to hone in on potential leaders by maximising leadership content through digital learning formats that generate a forceful impact.
Sometimes, receiving a promotion is not enough for employees. After working in certain environments, some professionals prefer to start at the bottom of an entirely new organisational ladder than to climb to the middle of a ladder they no longer want to be on. In any given organisation, there will be employees on the hunt for a new job. Career moves can stem from disgruntledness, lack of leadership, or little opportunity for advancement. Whatever the reason, ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. Investing in ongoing training in the workplace emphasises individual employee importance and establishes a culture which employees have the opportunity to grow and be a part of.
Downsizing is a very real fear for many professionals. The Great Recession carved out more job seekers than job openings in nearly every industry, at every educational level. The Recession propelled many professionals to learn more, whether this was through self-taught methodologies or through traditional courses – a byproduct of which resulted in spiked skill sets. Now, with the promising uptick of the economy, a rising number of employees are voluntarily resigning from their positions as external job opportunities proliferate.
Yet, the reality that most employees can be dispensable when organisations are at the end of their financial rope forces many professionals to continually develop their skills with their own agenda in mind. Training that focuses on teamwork shows appreciation for employees and departments. Organisations that offer courses for licenses and certifications within an employee’s field shows them that they matter beyond the extent of daily tasks and that they’re worth further investing in. These training courses also provide a window for employees to expand their professional network, adding connections with the opportunity for future partnerships or coalitions. If after completing this training an employee discovers that this isn’t the career path best suited for them, this can help upper management make the ultimate decision on which individuals are suitable to progress the organisation forward.
Digital Learning Technologies
Digital L&D can take many forms (lunch and learns, webinars, workshops, video, content) in internal and external environments. Employees who don’t receive internal training at work often educate themselves online in their free time at home, between work tasks and in digital communities. Some popular forms of digital learning technologies include:
1. Distance Learning is a form of learning where lectures or class sessions are broadcasted online. People who participate in distance learning aren’t required to attend a formal school, institute, or training program. A popular source of distance learning is TedTalks.
2. MOOCs or massive online courses are courses that are available online without charge to a large number of people. There are over 4,000 MOOCs offered worldwide in a variety of diversified subjects.
3. Digital Badges are a certified indicator of accomplishment or skill, quality, or interest. Digital badging makes it easy for professionals to earn and display their badges online, including on their LinkedIn profiles. For example, HubSpot Academy offers a free inbound marketing course where participants can earn a personalised badge to display.
While these are great resources, it’s worth inquiring about digital applications or platforms that can consolidate official L&D content. Mimeo Digital is an application that distributes digital content. L&D professionals can safely secure content and add or revoke access to course materials. Users of the app can stream videos and collaborate with others through group annotations from any Internet browser, or through the Mimeo Digital app download. Mimeo Digital provides trainers with the added capability to measure and monitor engagement with content to better understand what professional learners value.
Ultimately, it’s apps like Mimeo Digital that pave the way towards a relationship of transparency and accountability for training organisations and learners.