Browsing the web on the topic of “lifelong learning” recently, I came across an article by Nancy Merz Nordstrom: “Top 10 Benefits of Lifelong Learning.” These benefits she lists are all pretty much what you would expect. Lifelong learning promotes self-fulfillment; it opens your mind, increases your wisdom, helps you adapt to change, helps you find meaning in your life, and so on. The article didn’t explicitly touch on what I think most people would consider the most obvious benefit: it secures your livelihood and increases your job security.
But it was a good article on the whole, and I recommend it.
I think we can all agree that people who embrace lifelong learning as a way of life will realize many benefits. But in management, the sweet spot of any principle is where the benefit to the individual also yields a benefit to the organization. A recent article on the subject in Computerworld (“Lifelong Learning Is No Longer Optional” by Bart Perkins) touches on this, but it simply explains how to promote lifelong learning in your IT department, not why you should do it. It’s a good source if you’re already committed to lifelong learning, but it doesn’t try to sell the concept.
If you’re not yet committed to lifelong learning as business proposition, here is my stab at describing the top five benefits of lifelong learning to an IT organization.
- Promotes workplace harmony. This is, I think, the most unexpected benefit. A European research study published in 2014 found that “adult education helps people cope better with social challenges.” Improved social coping translates to less productivity-robbing workplace conflict and politics.
- More responsive workforce. People who are always learning are less hesitant to take on new challenges in their work and more confident in approaching them. They step up to and engage management initiatives more readily than those who are not continually testing themselves against new subjects and skills. This makes managing them easier because you don’t have to spend so much effort on selling the initiatives.
- More client satisfaction. Lifelong learners are, on the whole, more skilled and more competent than those who habitually avoid learning. More skills and more competence readily translate into client satisfaction, because they promote quality work and on-time deliverables. More client satisfaction means better business.
- Reduced recruitment expense. Lifelong learners tend to have skills beyond what they need for their jobs, implying they are generally ready for new jobs. If you can fill a job opening from your current workforce, you reduce recruitment expense.
- More fulfilled and satisfied employees. Career advancement is probably the biggest single variable in employee satisfaction and loyalty. Loyal employees increase organizational benefits in two ways: 1) the loyal employee tends to do a better job (simply as a result of personal commitment), and 2) the loyal employee is much less likely to pose a security risk to the organization, its intellectual property, its data, and its business.
The world changes too rapidly these days for companies to ignore employees’ desire for self-fulfillment and advancement through lifelong learning. As the Computerworld article put it, lifelong learning is no longer optional. If you haven’t formally embraced lifelong learning as part of your company’s mission, it’s not too late. Become a lifelong learning organization. Logical Operations can help, as you can see from the brief video on this page.