Learning does not end when you finish school, but rather continues throughout life. Independent learning, which is learning done autonomously without the support of teachers or in a school setting, can be very useful in the workplace. This article outlines a few simple steps that can help employers effectively turn their employees into independent learners.

As companies begin to realize the benefits of having employees who are independent learners, they are focusing more on encouraging and motivating independent learning that is ongoing. In many ways, independent learning is more efficient than offering structured training programs. A workforce of independent learners stays ahead of the curve, as each employee keeps up with the latest trends and skills in his or her specific area of expertise.

Here are three steps that employers can take to turn their employees into independent learners.

  1. Encourage Employees to Learn and Share
    For starters, your company culture must adapt to and embrace independent learning. The very basis of independent learning is that individuals are able to think, act and pursue knowledge in their own way. In order to do this, employees have to feel that they’re supported in their efforts to pursue knowledge in the workplace. Developing a learning network is one way to encourage independent learning. You can establish a way for employees to share what they’ve learned and what they would like to learn, either online via chats on the company’s intranet, or in-person through lunches or afternoons spent in a laid back setting. This kind of sharing not only motivates employees but also brings outside knowledge in. Helping employees build their own plans to reach learning goals is another way to encourage learning. Even though you’re not providing a structured training process, you can encourage employees to develop on their own learning strategy. Ask employees to submit requests for training courses, conferences, or webinars they would like to attend. You don’t have to fund everything, but give each employee the freedom—and a budget—to do some independent learning.
  2. Provide Useful Tools
    Employers should also consider establishing a framework to foster independent learning. Tools like skills assessments that help employees determine if there are any knowledge gaps they need to address, topics they could learn more about, or skills they should freshen upon, are useful for this purpose. Administering skills assessment tests can let employees know where their strengths are, and identify specific areas for improvement. Skills assessment tests also allow employees to see how much they’ve improved after learning a new skill. Tests designed to evaluate performance can help employees stay motivated throughout the learning process.
  3. Reward Learning Success
    Rewarding independent learning is another good way to encourage it. Having employees share what they have learned is one way to shine a light on them. And doing well on independent learning programs can be rewarded with anything from a shout-out at a meeting or a mention in a company-wide newsletter to a monetary bonus.

Independent learning is an effective and efficient way to bring valuable skills and knowledge to your company. Do you encourage independent learning among your employees?

Adina Miron

5 Comments

  • Avatar Madeline G. says:

    It is a great plan for the future of employee development. Skills assessment is an important tool to determine what skills need more education and also to determine the best way to acquire them. We shouldn’t stop learning, no matter how old we are. Independent learning is a step forward. 

  • Avatar Trinity W. says:

    Maybe not everyone is born ready for such methods – a coach to supervise and guide those who sign up for a program like this is needed. But it is a good way to improve skills and give free rein to the student who wants to research and plan their own education. 

  • Avatar Autumn B says:

    I would love to have such programs implemented in our company with guidance from coaches, not trainers. This can help employees understand their real knowledge and also encourage them to improve and achieve success.

  • Avatar Ella Bane says:

    Independent learning brings out the creativeness in them, if you give them the proper resources and the trust, it will boost their confidence. It is but right to give the right compensation after doing well in their respective job not just a pat on the back.

  • Eric Friedman Eric Friedman says:

    Thank you for your comment, Ella! I agree with you 100% and looking forward to your future feedback.

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