The term lifelong learning is self-explanatory. Students typically finish school somewhere between the ages of 18 and 25. Lifelong learning complements that traditional formal education trajectory and refers to the continuous self-development of an individual and the adoption of new knowledge and skills on an on-going basis. It can be done out of self-interest for personal gain, like learning Portuguese for a bucket-list trip to Brazil. But lifelong learning is also an important component in employee development and business strategies.
Upskilling and reskilling
When it comes to those business incentives, the terminology distinguishes between upskilling and reskilling.
Upskilling is the process of improving a current skill set. It’s a vertical growth path towards optimized professionalism and potential leadership in a specific field of expertise. Upskilling employees makes them more valuable in their current role.
Reskilling, on the other hand, focusses on entirely new skills. The teaching and learning of these new – preferably in-demand – abilities lay at the basis of an employee’s agility and ensure employability.
The key to success
Moving on to why upskilling and reskilling workforces is so important.
Future-proof and cost-effective
Digital transformation and technological advancements are unstoppable. The 2018 Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum predicted that 75 million jobs will be displaced by 2022 in 20 major economies. At the same time, 133 million new roles are expected to be created, driven by what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And the need to develop different capabilities and skill sets, also entails a push towards a new type of leadership.
So, it’s high time for employers to act and acknowledge the pool of talent already available inhouse. By offering employees the opportunity to unlock their potential through up- and reskilling, businesses can future-proof their workforce. Admittedly, it requires time and commitment, and employers are often reluctant because of the costs. Nevertheless, sources agree that, in the long-term, investing in the development of employees is less expensive than hiring and retraining new employees.
Adaptability and agility in crisis times
In addition, investing in lifelong learning also ensures change agility. During the COVID-crisis we talked with HR professionals amongst whom Veronica Cabedo, Consultant in change management, leadership, team development and coaching. She confirmed that “companies and teams that have built that agility to manage change are riding through this [crisis], because for them change is more normal. They kind of take it and go with it. Other companies are not really used to being in an earthquake, as it were. There's something in terms of developing that kind of flexibility, agility in your everyday work context that prepares you for the next change.”
To conclude, there’s the aspect of employee satisfaction. An impressive 87% of millennials rate "professional opportunities" as important to them in a job. And according to a Work Institute report, the lack of enough professional development and career growth opportunities leads the reasons why employees leave a company. In 2019, that was the 9th consecutive year where this reason for leaving ranked first.
The support of continuous learning and career development makes employees feel valued and adds to their personal fulfillment. And that’s beneficial for the organization as a whole retaining top talents and increasing productivity.
We can conclude that there is a growing demand with individual employees and companies as a whole for constant, life-long learning for individuals at all levels in an organization and at all career stages. These trends are shaping the field of business education and show us that the potential for business schools and corporate training is vast.
More about how these education institutions can meet the needs of the lifelong learners with new adapted programs in our next blogpost.
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