In today’s world, change is the only constant. To keep up with the status quo and the demands of the industry, organizations and professionals need to constantly upgrade. Emerging technologies, improved business practices, and enhanced tools require an upgraded skillset and the need for these new skills wasn’t the same earlier as it is today. If the speed of your learning is less than the speed of the change outside, then you are at risk of becoming irrelevant faster.
Learning is a never-ending process. If you think you have got your graduate degree followed by a master’s and that would be enough for your survival in this competitive world, then you are wrong. Learning is not a one-time process. The same applies to organizations as well, where the old days of training your workforce one time and then stop the learning process don’t work. Organizations or professionals who do not spend time and effort on developing new skillset and knowledge become obsolete faster. It is very crucial to stay competitive in today’s global arena.
The learning can be related to anything that makes you stand out and gives you a global advantage. It can be a degree course or a certification or as simple as reading a book that gives you an insight into something new. Leaders, along with generating revenues, maximizing profits, and running smooth businesses, also need to focus on building learning organizations that focus on upgrading strategies, technologies, and skillset of their workforce with changing circumstances. All of these trends have elevated the significance and strategic role of the learning and development (L&D) function within the organization. The L&D function has a crucial task to continuously impart formal learning on themes relevant to business and the industry and keep organizations afloat with the change. It can be done through classroom or virtual sessions or providing self-learning modules to the employees.
Self-learning is another fundamental way of building a competitive advantage. With the knowledge available at their fingertips, it has become easier for employees to learn by themselves. Using the web-based and online platforms, to enrolling and attending a seminar, or reading about new technology, constitute to self-learning. You can choose your own pace and method to make self-directed learning more effective, but it is critical to be curious, dedicated, and setting learning goals to get the maximum benefits. To realize aspirations and stay relevant in an ever-changing world, the culture of self-learning needs to establish and has to become a habit.
According to Malcolm Knowles, an American educator, self-learning is demarcated as "a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, and evaluating learning outcomes".
The advantages of continuous learning are numerous, both for organizations and individuals. Organizations, when focus on continuous learning, observe:
Enhanced employee performance, engagement, and productivity
Higher return on investments
Reduced employee turnover
Better response to a change and preparedness for unexpected
Relevancy in the global setup
Innovation and growth
Competitive edge in the market
Individuals, who focus on their growth through self-learning, perceive:
Improved individual professional portfolio
Promotions and incentives
Better job opportunities
Personal satisfaction and enrichment
After I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Engineering way back in 2005, I was not critical of the fact that continuous learning is a must. As I progressed in my professional career and started seeing the changes around, I realized that to make the journey effective, it is important to focus on learning and keep up the pace with the changing global environment. To remain effective, I accomplished my certification in Project Management, attained a Master's degree in Business Management, and also got trained on agile methodologies in the last couple of years. With this, I also attended numerous training and forums on technology and management to get better. I'm continuously striving for more such learning opportunities and have made learning as my habit.
To be able to prepare well for the coming future, learning is crucial. Irrespective of the industry you are a part of, organizations and individuals can benefit from this paradigm of continuous learning.