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.
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.
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.
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?