Fostering a habit of lifelong learning has become essential for leaders today who are differentiating themselves as retainers of top talent. Gone are the days when continuing education was a "nice to have"; lifelong learning is now a necessity and not just something that leaders try to add into their busy schedules.
And in today’s workplace, the lifelong learning mindset is often the difference between a leader that adds long-term value and one that simply goes through the motions (and may not last long at the top finance chair).
Not only is lifelong learning essential to finance leaders, but the pursuit is also essential in rank-and-file finance teams as well. Companies around the world are experiencing hasty, unexpected changes in how they operate. Fluctuations in supply chains and the need for new technologies and innovations demand talent that can keep up and even go beyond those shifts. Moreover, organizations comprised of lifelong learners adapt more quickly to unforeseen events such as a pandemic.
Here are five strategies to develop a lifelong learning habit in and out of the workplace as well as how to create a work culture that cultivates continuous learning amongst your team.
How to Make Lifelong Learning a Priority
As Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
We live in a world that is constantly evolving – and the workplace is not immune to those changes. The reality we must face is that lifelong learning is no longer elective, it’s no longer a suggestion - it’s an indispensable aspect to our professional success. Here’s how to embrace lifelong learning.
Be Intentional with Your Time
Time is the biggest deterrent to completing a new project or skillset. Even more so, time is a commodity; therefore, you should utilize the time you have with intention and purpose. If you’re not intentional with the time you have, there’s a good chance the thing you want to do will get overshadowed by other things.
People love routines – we have them when we wake up in the morning, we have them we go to bed, and we even have them when we complete familiar tasks. When you are clear about the outcome you expect and the purpose behind what needs to be done, you then become deliberate about how to divvy up your time.
Set S.M.A.R.T Goals Relevant to Your Objectives
Once you figure out what you want to dive headfirst into, create goals that will push you further towards that end result. As Tony Robbins says, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Without goals, your aspirations are just that: only aspirations. One thing to consider is that the goals you set for yourself should be dynamic and adaptable. Things can and will change at a moment’s notice. Your goals should be:
Specific – Answer the five ‘W’ questions: who, what, when, where and why.
Measurable – Quantify your goals so that it makes it easier to track.
Achievable – Your goals should be realistic.
Relevant – Does this goal achieve a purpose?
Time-Bound – Does this goal have a deadline?
Be Receptive to Feedback
Feedback is one of the ways to measure success both in your personal life and in the workplace. When someone analyzes your performance, it can be uncomfortable. However, you should periodically assess your progress by letting others (mentors, employers, etc.) know that you are open to feedback. Pointers from others are critical to growth development. In fact, being a lifelong learner means opening yourself up to continually change, improve and flourish. Take note of the feedback and use that as an opportunity to build off your learning.
Mix Up Your Learning Content – Become a Polymath
Even as recent as five years ago, it paid to be a specialist. But in a work climate that thrives on new innovations and a revolving door of ideas, having a broad range of skill sets is what will propel you forward. Try alternating between learning a variety of both technical and soft skills to make yourself a more flexible learner. For example, an accounting professional who is well-versed in numbers, can interpret the data and can forecast for the following fiscal year is more likely to succeed in their field due to the sheer number of skills they can perform. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Why When Developing a Habit of Lifelong Learning
The easiest way to limit your progress is by withholding your desire to seek answers. While there is plenty of knowledge around us to be gained – your peers, mentors, scholarly articles, the internet and more – it would be imprudent to think we only learn from firsthand experience. By raising questions – either in a team setting or with an individual – you are enabling thought-provoking discussions. In fact, Wayne Baker, Ph.D., faculty director of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, touches on this topic – “Asking is key to success.” Seek out new perspectives and opinions – you’ll learn more from these particular people than you would from those who are like-minded.
How to Create a Workplace Culture of Lifelong Learning
According to a LinkedIn survey, opportunities for employee development have become the second most important factor in workplace happiness. Moreover, a Forbes survey showed that 55 percent of employees agree that career growth is more important than compensation.
Promoting a work culture entrenched in ongoing learning is a big undertaking for many organizations. Fortunately, there are a few ways to focus on building a workplace that makes learning a core aspect of the business:
Build a library of learning resources. Providing access to tools and resources that can enable your employees to learn on an ongoing basis is key. Moreover, ensure employees can consume content when they need it like on a mobile device – ideally, the content should take no more than three minutes to read.
Invest in your employees’ ongoing development. Offering tuition assistance as a benefit encourages employees to learn. As the future of work evolves and customer demands increase, companies will need to invest in their own people to keep up with this market.
Hire inquisitive people. It might seem redundant to say, but people rarely leave a company that’s invested in their employees’ success. Building a culture of lifelong learners begins during the recruitment process – by hiring people who are open to exploring new ideas and seeking out new ways of performing tasks, you’re fostering a culture of continuous learning.
And with this, you now have the right knowledge to start cultivating a work culture fueled by lifelong learning habits. Keep in mind that the first step is finding and hiring the right talent that can add value to your organization.
Having trouble building a team of lifelong learners? Maybe you just need some help. Contact our experts to find out how adding a few accounting professionals to your roster via outsourced accounting can help your team focus on the bigger picture.
Enjoy this article? Then you’ll love our article on how to embrace company culture as a remote employer: Embracing The Future Of Work: Reimagining Company Culture As A Virtual Employer. Read now.