What every organisation should know about lifelong learning

Learning does not stop when one leaves school

What every organisation should know about lifelong learning

by Marc Remond, vice president of meeting and learning experience solutions for Barco

Students typically finish their formal education somewhere between the ages of 18 and 25 - but learning does not stop when one leaves school. Lifelong learning complements a traditional formal education trajectory and refers to the continuous self-development of an individual and the adoption of new knowledge and skills on an ongoing basis. More importantly, it is also a key component of employee development and business strategies. In Singapore, the government is a keen advocate of retraining and upskilling. In support of this objective, various grants and programmes are available, including SkillsFuture, a government initiative designed to provide Singaporeans with opportunities to upskill and reskill. In 2019, 500,000 individuals and 14,000 enterprises benefited from SkillsFuture Programmes.  

Especially given the current economic uncertainty, it is critical that the workforce continues to remain relevant and employable by developing their digital skills. While government support is vital, it is imperative that businesses fulfil their role as the key drivers of lifelong learning.

When it comes to employee development, the terminology distinguishes between upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling is the process of improving a current skill set. It is a vertical growth path towards optimised professionalism and potential leadership in a specific field of expertise. Upskilling employees makes them more valuable in their current role.

The teaching and learning of these new – preferably in-demand – abilities lie at the basis of an employee’s agility and ensure employability.

The key to success

Digital transformation and technological advancements are unstoppable. The 2018 Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum predicted that 75 million jobs will be displaced by 2022 in 20 major economies. At the same time, 133 million new roles are expected to be created, driven by what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The need to develop different capabilities and skill sets also entails a push towards a new type of leadership.

Therefore, it would be wise for employers to acknowledge the pool of talent already available in-house. By offering employees the opportunity to unlock their potential through up- and reskilling, businesses can future-proof their workforce. Admittedly, it requires time and commitment, and employers are often reluctant because of the costs. Nevertheless, sources agree that, in the long term, investing in the development of employees is less expensive than hiring and retraining new employees.

Adaptability and agility in times of crisis

In addition, investing in lifelong learning also ensures change agility. During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and teams that have built agility to manage change are riding through the crisis - for them, change has become normal. Other companies are not really used to drastic change such as this. Developing that flexibility and agility in your everyday work context helps to prepare you for the next change.

Employee satisfaction

An impressive 87 percent of millennials rate "professional opportunities" as important to them in a job. According to a Work Institute report, the lack of enough professional development and career growth opportunities is the primary reason why employees leave a company. 2019 was the ninth consecutive year in which this reason for leaving ranked first.

The support of continuous learning and career development will help contribute to employee morale and personal fulfilment. In the long run, it will also prove to be beneficial for the organisation in retaining top talent and increasing productivity.

We can conclude that there is a growing demand among individual employees and companies for constant, life-long learning for individuals at all levels in an organisation and at all career stages. These trends are shaping the field of business education and show us that the potential for business schools and corporate training is vast.

For learning and development (L and D) teams in business, the question facing them is, “what system can we use now to keep our training going?” Companies that had invested in mixed training were better placed, for three main reasons:

  1. They kept a competitive advantage by keeping their partners and customers in learning mode using topical virtual learning sessions on the company’s value propositions.
  2. They could facilitate redeployment of staff as their training capacity was fit for purpose.
  3. They could continue upskilling and reskilling their workforce and onboarding newly hired people.

The lesson is that any solution must be sustainable, as the investment should cover the different scenarios that learning and development teams face. Here are some criteria we have identified when it comes to distance training. The ideal solution should be:

  1. Instructor-led, real time (synchronous) training for maximum inclusion and participation
  2. Flexible SaaS platform able to support virtual (Fully Remote), hybrid (Local and Remote) and in-person (Fully Local) training scenarios
  3. Purpose-built teaching-learning system to reach optimal engagement and interactivity levels.
  4. An immersive environment for trainers where every student can sit in the first row and chose, on demand, what to see and when.

Post graduate learning institutes and business schools are also paths which employees can take to achieve reskilling and upgrading. Similarly, the facility education for adults should evolve in the way they deliver hybrid and online learning in the long term. These schools need to differentiate themselves, as students who are paying a premium price for a better learning experience have higher expectations in terms of the delivery and content of the classes.

This is where advanced video collaboration technologies and pedagogical approaches come into play. In an immersive classroom, the instructor can engage with remote students connecting from anywhere in and is able to use analytics to measure student engagement and interactivity in real time.

Instead of reacting to the pandemic, learning institutes and businesses need to digitalise to enhance learning outcomes. This ensures that the learning is not only satisfying and productive, but helps meet long-term goals of training a skilled, employable workforce. 

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