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Lifelong learning: How to create lifelong learners with L&D

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lifelong learning skills

‘I am still learning’ Michelangelo said at age 87, two years before his death. Although the Italian artist and architect’s famous quote was written in the 1560s, it can still be applied today, more than ever, to the modern workplace.

Learning should not stop the moment one leaves university or becomes comfortable in a position. In fact, learning at work, specifically when it comes to interpersonal skills, should become a lifelong aspect of every career and an important investment for every organisation. In the ever-changing world of the modern workplace, lifelong learning and upskilling in soft skills will be the key to the future success of organisations and employees alike.  

When it comes to learning, organisations today are focused on immediate hard skills training rather than developing the long-term soft skills that will foster an engagement in personal and professional development that will span a career and play a paramount role in the success of a company.  

Here are three ways to use L&D to create lifelong learners.  

Give employees the right tools for lifelong learning 

Companies should be upholding Michelangelo’s sentiment to the importance of lifelong learning as they shift focus and put soft skills development in the spotlight through digital learning platforms and quality training content. In today’s busy workplace, it is the quality learning material provided by L&D professionals that will inspire employees to actively engage in their own lifelong upskilling.  

When searching for training tools, it is important that learning professionals look to digital learning programmes that give employees content that goes beyond hard skills. Up-to-date, fast, user-friendly and relevant learning materials focused on a variety of soft skills will encourage learners to continuously seek out their own development as they move through their careers.  

Communicate the organisation’s support of lifelong learning 

When a company invests in L&D it is also investing in the metamorphosis from employee to lifelong learner. But without the employee’s knowledge of this investment, they will not be able to make this important shift. This makes it crucial that learning professionals promote this investment their company has made in development to employees as well as the learning tools themselves.   

Lack of knowledge caused by lack of promotion is one of the reasons that most learning initiatives fail. Whether through newsletters, posters, emails or group discussions it is important that those in charge of learning make learning initiatives and the organisation’s interest in its employees’ development common knowledge.  

Make soft skills training a strategy focus  

Ninety-two percent of UK talent professionals believe that soft skills are now as or more important than hard ones according to Linkedin’s Workplace Learning Report (1). Interpersonal skills are becoming universally recognised as one of the pillars of a futureproof people strategy yet many organisations are still focused on training in hard skills. Human skills maintain usefulness throughout a career and a lifetime, making them the necessary focus when it comes to employee’s lifelong development while technical skills are immediately useful but will become obselete just a few years from now.  

This lack of focus has caused 80% of L&D professionals to report a soft skills gap within their organisation. (2) This means that businesses must focus on the nurturing and improvement of the interpersonal skills that directly relate to the future success of their company by investing in the lifelong development of soft skills over hard ones.  

The future workplace 

Julian Jencquel, Executive Coach and Trainer at Jencquel Consulting said, “The difference between hard skills and soft skills is that when you learn the former, you are acquiring competencies that could become obsolete within the following year; when you learn the latter, you are tapping into the timeless wisdom of humanity.” 

For more on learning in the future workplace, check out our eBook Learning with Technology.

Being an advocate for lifelong learning will give organisations a much-needed competitive edge in the future soft skills driven world. Choosing to invest in the development of lifelong learners, savvy in soft skills, will be organisations’ most crucial step towards a successful future. Otherwise in only a few years we will all be wishing we had listened to Michelangelo’s wisdom.  

Bookboon has conducted a quantitative and qualitative survey about the current Learning & Development landscape among nearly 300 L&D professionals in over 30 countries. Additionally, we have held in-depth interviews with learning advocates covering the whole L&D spectrum from L&D Managers, Top Management, Consultants and HR to Department Managers. Download the complete report for FREE here 


2. Bookboon’s Learning & Development Landscape report.  

Lifelong Learning Skills

For more on how to create lifelong learners through soft skills training, check out our brand new eBook Lifelong Learning Skills.

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