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Lifelong learning—a matter of culture

How to actively support employee development


Lifelong learning—a concept that seems intangible at first but is nevertheless anchored in our human DNA. Metaphorically and biologically. We learn new things every day, completely unconsciously and incidentally. Through the media we consume, from the people we communicate with, and by observing our environment. But how can we positively influence this process of lifelong learning? And what responsibilities do companies have when it comes to their employees’ development? 
In this article, you’ll find out why lifelong learning and a positive, open learning culture are an asset to modern companies. You’ll receive specific tips on how to actively promote learning in the workplace.


Definition: Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is more than the traditional educational path of school > university > work. It might sound cumbersome to implement at first glance, but it essentially describes what we do every day anyway: Learn new things. Whether unconsciously or consciously, intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Lifelong learners are open to constantly developing and adapting to new circumstances—regardless of their age. 

Lifelong learning takes place everywhere: At home, surfing the internet, talking to friends or colleagues and, of course, at work. It includes both formal learning formats such as courses, certificates and qualifications, as well as all the small, informal learning moments we experience in everyday life. Like the new recipe you try out or the YouTube tutorials that show you how to finally fix that dripping tap.


What does lifelong learning mean in the workplace?

Now that we have clarified what lifelong learning actually is, you might be asking yourself the question: What does this mean for my employees and our professional lives?

Lifelong learning is absolutely essential at work. Skills are experiencing an ever shorter half-life thanks to rapid technological development. The demands on your employees are constantly evolving. They have adapt to this and constantly expand their hard and soft skills.

Lifelong learning at work is more than just formal training, or even compulsory training. It is an attitude that requires curiosity and openness to new things. It means learning from mistakes, seeing feedback as an opportunity, and actively seeking chances for further development.


Can you give me an example of lifelong learning?

One of your employees from the marketing department is following the development of generative AI. He familiarizes himself with the topic independently, attends webinars on the subject of “AI in marketing”, reads white papers, and watches YouTube tutorials. With this new knowledge, he begins to actively use the tools in his day-to-day work. Over time, your employee becomes an expert in AI in marketing. He now works faster and achieves better results. He passes on his knowledge to other colleagues in the marketing department, thereby improving the performance of the entire team. 

As you can see, lifelong learning is a combination of personal initiative, intrinsic motivation, the use of various learning resources, and the practical application of new skills—all in order to develop professionally and meet new challenges.


Why you should encourage lifelong learning

The half-life of knowledge is constantly decreasing. What is cutting edge today may be outdated tomorrow. Think of the technological developments we have seen over the last 20 years. While most cellphones were still like a brick in our pockets at the beginning of the 2000s, we now use state-of-the-art smartphones and artificial intelligence quite intuitively in our everyday lives. The secret to corporate success lies in developing your own knowledge faster than the pace of change. Or even in driving the changes and promoting innovation yourself. Only lifelong learners have a chance of becoming thought leaders.

Conventional upskilling and internal mandatory training courses have not been able to cope with this challenge for a long time now. More needs to be done to develop future skills. According to a study by Gartner, 80% of employees were lacking the skills required for future roles as early as 2018. A change is therefore long overdue. 

By promoting lifelong learning, you are not only equipping your team with the latest knowledge and skills they need to be successful today. You are also laying the foundations for future adaptability and innovation. Lifelong learning prepares your employees to proactively face challenges, anticipate changes, and develop solutions independently. Promoting lifelong learning is a strategic decision that helps companies to remain competitive and prepare for the future. 


Advantages of lifelong learning for employees

Career development

Continuous learning opens up new career paths and promotion opportunities for your employees. 

Personal growth

Your employees develop a deeper understanding of the world around them, improve their problem-solving skills, and nurture their creativity.


Lifelong learning improves adaptability by training your employees to absorb and apply new information.

Increased job satisfaction

If your employees have the opportunity to develop their skills continuously, their satisfaction with their work will generally increase. This boosts productivity and reduces staff turnover.

Better self-management

Through lifelong learning, your employees develop self-management skills such as time management and self-directed learning.

Network expansion

Lifelong learning opens up opportunities for your employees to network and exchange ideas with like-minded people from your industry or other specialist areas.


Advantages of lifelong learning for employers

Increasing innovative strength

Employees who are constantly learning and developing bring new ideas, technologies, and processes into the company. 

Increasing competitiveness

Employees who are lifelong learners keep skills and knowledge up-to-date in your company. This improves adaptability and increases competitiveness.

Improving employee retention

If your employees see opportunities for personal and professional development ahead of them, they are more likely to stay with the company over the long term. 

Flexibility and adaptability

Lifelong learning prepares employees to manage change efficiently and effectively. An indispensable characteristic in this VUCA world.

Increase in productivity

Employees who undergo continuous further training in their professional field work more efficiently and achieve better results.

Improved corporate image

Companies that invest in their employees’ development are often perceived as attractive employers. This improves the company’s image and makes it easier to attract top talent.


The role of learning culture in lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is therefore a real gamechanger for companies. But it can’t be achieved using traditional training methods as it requires personal initiative and intrinsic motivation. So how do you motivate your employees to engage in lifelong learning? With the right learning culture! Because lifelong learning is definitely a matter of culture.

Learning culture in companies is not a nice extra, but a real necessity. Create an atmosphere in which learning is integral. Make it a matter of course for everyone in the team to learn new things, exchange ideas, and improve their existing skills. 

A strong learning culture means that mistakes are allowed—because without them there can be no learning. It also means that everyone has the time and resources to develop further. And above all, it means that learning is seen for what it is: An investment in the future of the company and in your own career. 

For managers, this means setting an example that learning is part of work. Not just with empty words, but a real commitment. For teams, it means that knowledge sharing and mutual support are part of the day-to-day job. And for each individual, it means that curiosity and the desire to learn are just as much a part of the job as the actual work. It’s not about collecting a bunch of certificates, but about really getting better—as a team and as an individual. 


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A comprehensive guide for decision-makers and L&D managers

Get to know the most important steps that every company has to go through to create and maintain a positive learning culture. You will receive a structured and comprehensible guideline for anchoring learning not only in your corporate culture, but also firmly in everyday working life.


Technologies for lifelong learning

Of course, lifelong learning is first and foremost a matter of culture. But without the right tools, it remains nothing more than a nice idea. We are lucky in the digital era: There are a lot of technologies that can support your employees in their learning. Here are some of the most important ones and how they can help you train your employees:

Learning management systems (LMS)

Manage, distribute, and monitor learning content and programs within your company. Use social functions such as comment sections to stimulate the exchange of knowledge between your employees, or utilize user-generated content. 

Learning experience platforms (LXP)

With LXPs, you can offer your employees a more personalized and user-centric learning experience than with traditional LMSs. Using intelligent algorithms, the platform generates appropriate suggestions for learning content to suit your employees’ interests and skill gaps.

Learning content management systems (LCMS)

You can create and manage learning content with an LCMS (also known as an authoring tool). In contrast to an LMS, which focuses more on learner and course administration, an LCMS concentrates on the learning content itself. 

Scenario-based learning

This method uses realistic scenarios or simulations to provide practical experiences in a risk-free space. Learners can make decisions and see the consequences of their actions played out in a controlled learning environment.


Give your employees the opportunity to integrate learning into their stressful working day. In microlearning, the learning content is served in small, easily digestible chunks. This enables your employees to learn effectively in short periods of time.

Mobile learning

Almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet. With mobile learning, your employees can learn on their mobile devices. Whether in the office, on the train, or at home on the sofa—your employees have access to valuable knowledge everywhere. 

Digital flashcards

A traditional learning tool in digital form that is particularly effective for memorizing and repeating information. Digital flashcards can contain multimedia elements, and often use algorithms to adjust the repetition intervals based on the learner’s performance.


Supporting lifelong learning: Seven specific tips

Transparent communication about goals not only provides orientation, but also motivation. When employees understand how their learning contributes to the bigger picture, their piece of the puzzle suddenly becomes an important building block for the company’s future.

Not everyone learns the same way. Some absorb knowledge from videos like a sponge, others need texts, discussions, or practical exercises. By providing a wide range of learning resources, everyone can identify and use their own individual learning style. This not only makes learning more effective, but also more enjoyable.

People who can decide for themselves when, what, and how they learn are more motivated at work. Self-directed learning not only promotes personal responsibility, but also encourages the deep retention of what has been learned. Give your employees the freedom to help shape their learning paths and watch their enthusiasm for learning grow.

Learning is not a single event that you tick off your list and forget. It is a continuous process that works best when it becomes part of your daily routine. Find ways to embed learning moments directly into work processes so that learning and working go hand-in-hand. This might mean introducing regular learning breaks or integrating learning tasks into projects.

Learning is a cycle that needs feedback to close and start again. Regular reflection sessions and constructive feedback not only help to consolidate what has been learned, but also to continuously improve the individual’s learning process. Encourage an open exchange about learning experiences and provide structures that facilitate such discussions.

Digital tools enable you to create personalized learning paths that adapt to each individual’s progress and offer flexibility in terms of time and place of learning. The right technology makes learning more efficient, accessible and engaging—use it!

Recognition works wonders for motivation. A system that recognizes both small advances and major milestones shows your employees that their efforts are seen and appreciated. From digital badges and certificates to simple words of praise in a team meeting—gestures like these strengthen the learning culture and motivate people to stay on the ball.


The bottom line on lifelong learning

Lifelong learning, from cradle to grave. On the one hand, it seems so easy, but on the other hand, it takes work to keep at it. For companies, however, it is crucial to their competitiveness that employees continuously develop themselves and their skills. To bring lifelong learning into your company, you first need an open learning culture and the right technology. 

Lifelong learning requires strategic planning, resources, and a pinch of creativity. But the effort is worth it, because such a culture makes companies more resilient and adaptable.

Would you like to take the next step and make your company a place where people enjoy growing and working? We’ll support you with the right technology and the expertise you need on your lifelong learning journey. Contact us and make an appointment for a free and non-binding consultation.

Nadine Pedro
[Translate to English:] Nadine Pedro, chemmedia AG
Nadine Pedro
eLearning author

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