Insightful BlogsAugust 2, 2022

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning the path to personal development and strengthened business

In today’s increasingly digital economy, businesses must operate at 100% capacity and also scale by leveraging every resource strategically – especially human resources capital. Companies and organisations are quickly coming to terms with the fact that people are their most important asset.

It is widely understood that South Africa continues to struggle with a lack of available skills. This, coupled with a high unemployment rate of 34.5%, means every industry and sector will be impacted.

Business leaders are well aware that to compete at the highest level and sustain levels of operation, they need skilled employees. But more than that they need these employees to continuously develop their existing skills, acquire new ones and not be afraid to tackle opportunities to learn from other departments, business units and silos.

Many industries and sectors today require employees to be multi-skilled and ready and willing to upskill and cross-skill. This is because most business models are complex and are being redefined to address the requirements of a knowledge economy.

We are talking about lifelong learning or what market analysts describe as a form of self-initiated education focused on personal development. Generally, business leaders regard lifelong learning as any learning that happens outside of a formal education institute.

But why is it important?

Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly significant to businesses.  Aside from personal growth and a strong sense of wellbeing for employees, this kind of learning speaks to our natural desire to explore, learn and grow.

It sounds abstract, but the reality for businesses is that people who are continuously developing their learning, and by default, their skills, actually represent a stronger resource for businesses.

Lifelong learning has a definite role to play in the workplace.  We often hear the phrase ‘organisational lifelong learning’ which is used to describe employer recognition of lifelong learning as a core component in employee development.

Research also shows that organisational learning is important because of the need to retain job knowledge and intellectual capital in-house – a company’s skills capital is one of its most significant differentiators.

Employees should engage in constant personal learning to be adaptable and flexible so that the organisation can stay competitive and relevant.

Valamis.com lists one of the advantages of lifelong learning as an improvement in other personal and professional skills.  In the workplace, the development of creative skills or leadership/problem-solving skills will benefit both the employee and employer.

Skillsyouneed.com emphasises that employers are looking for “well-balanced people with transferable skills” – including the ability to show that one is eager to learn and develop skill sets.

Clearly the days of one person applying a set or two of skills and focusing all their efforts on those skills alone are over.  Businesses have matured and now the emphasis is on personal skills development.

But this presents another challenge – who is responsible? Who is accountable? Is it the employer that must provide the resources (time, money, etc.) to develop in-house skills, or is it up to the employee to make sure they are ready, willing and able to grab opportunities?

Whether or not a company comes to the realisation of who is responsible, how and why, the fact remains that knowledge is power and the more skills employees can acquire and demonstrate, the better for their careers and the better for the employer who has them as members of staff.

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