How do companies successfully create a differential in an economy oversaturated with innovations, advancements and consumer products? Well, they create a differential within their companies for their knowledge workers through lifetime learning.
Operating in an era of accelerated change and knowledge work requires an attitude of lifetime learning. Learning occurs consciously or unconsciously, purposefully and every day. We learn through our experiences or deliberate effort to gain new knowledge, advance our skills and improve performance.
Knowledge workers? I know what you’re thinking. That sounds like some fluffy rhetoric companies use to win over hearts and minds during the Monday morning circle. Right? Wrong. Organisations are operating in a knowledge economy where lifetime learning is vital. Mental work outweighs physical work – providing companies with irreplaceable intangible assets which require constant updating and nurturing.
The rate of change rapidly accelerates as the world constantly changes. Lifetime learning is essential for dealing with change and making a difference. Organisations learn to cope with changes in technology, consumer demands, internal and external environments, available resources, economic climates and legislation.
Knowledge workers crave lifetime learning. They enable an organisation to cope with change by making use of a specialised body of knowledge to perform their job roles, using only thoughts and ideas – when you put it that way it makes this group of employees sound like they should be starring alongside Criss Angel. It gets even freakier – knowledge work is invisible, difficult to identify and difficult to control which is why a culture of lifetime learning should be fostered and implemented in an organisation to truly gain a sustainable competitive advantage.
Now here’s the dilemma; not only must these lifetime learners constantly gain new knowledge to stay abreast of the competition, but management must learn how to work with these knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. As I mentioned before, knowledge workers are always learning – increasing their personal, organisational and market value all the time. The lifetime learner may leave to explore their next progressive career move. Therefore, management must learn to keep knowledge workers satisfied and stimulated within the organisation.
Lifetime learners experience boredom and dissatisfaction rather easily. As top management, we must pay close attention to the development and lifetime learning needs of knowledge workers. This requires allowing them to learn all the time and grow through various development methods in an environment conducive to learning.
Management must learn to acknowledge lifetime learning
Learning how to reward and acknowledge knowledge workers is the key to retaining them. Management must treat knowledge workers with integrity, respect and caring at all time. They also need to find what motivates these workers and what rewards are truly meaningful – remember, money is not always a motivator but pay can positively influence the performance of knowledge workers if:
• There is a strong, direct link between performance, contribution, and reward.
• Measuring performance and contribution is fair and consistent.
• Rewards are worthwhile and in-line with expectations.
Lifetime learning for knowledge workers only?
Lifetime learning isn’t a concept that only applies to knowledge workers. It isn’t a concept which requires vigorous development techniques or special forces training. Everyone must adopt an attitude of lifetime learning that allows us to adapt in a rapidly changing world. We need to learn flexibility and compromise. We need to constantly learn how to respectfully and appropriately interact with others from different cultures, worldviews and opinions. Learning even happens during your 9 am coffee-break-chat with a co-worker about accepted behaviours, social etiquette, tolerance and emotional intelligence.
You may possess all the knowledge in the world, but to truly be successful you must learn to respect working with and through others, harness everyday experiences, think on your feet in tricky situations, create opportunities for growth, use your common sense and most importantly share knowledge to create an endless cycle of lifetime learning for those around you. This is the environment we sustain to create at Symbiotics which we truly believe fosters a culture of lifetime learning.