Lifelong learning

Lifelong Learning: Don't Stop Learning

A rolling stone gathers no moss. If you stop learning, you stop learning. Lifelong learning is essential to keep up in business and society. We explain what exactly is meant by the term and what the opportunities are for people and companies.

Finally: school/university is over, now constant learning is a thing of the past.

While our grandparents may still have gotten away with this motto, this was no longer the case with our parents. They have been asked to learn many times during their professional lives. Constant learning has become second nature to our generation anyway. Once you have your master’s in the bag, the longest learning phase of our lives is just beginning. We learn languages while riding the subway, brush up on our knowledge while running with a podcast, and regularly sign up for education and training. Oh, and would you like an MBA or a course to sprinkle on top? Yes, we are all lifelong learners. And that’s a good thing – after all, lifelong learning (LLL) is essential when it comes to keeping up and getting ahead, both professionally and socially. But that’s not the only benefit of lifelong learning. Before we look at these benefits in detail, let’s take a look at the definition oflifelong learning.

This is lifelong learning

Lifelong learning, lifelong learning, recurrent education: the list of terms referring to learning readiness from childhood to old age is long and opaque. In the EU, the term “lifelong learning” has been widely agreed upon. “Lifelong learning” is used synonymously (especially in Austria). According to the EU definition, lifelong learning means “all learning throughout life that serves to improve knowledge, qualifications and competences and takes place within a personal, civic, social, or employment-related perspective.” The definition is very broad and includes not only “official” learning at schools, universities, or further education institutes, but also informal learning activities, such as an online language course or a knowledge podcast. In order to measure the education and training activities of EU citizens, the structural indicator “Lifelong Learning” was developed. According to Statistics Austria, this will be 14.6% in 2021 (almost 3 percentage points higher than in 2020). Specifically, this means that nearly 15% of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 had participated in an education or training program in the four weeks prior to the survey. In the 15-74 age group, the figure is still around 10%. As the figures show, women are slightly more interested in further education than men.

Lifelong learning: the advantages

We note that more than one in ten people learn on a regular basis – and the trend is rising. And that’s a good thing – after all, lifelong learning is now an essential prerequisite for climbing the career ladder. Those who are willing to constantly learn new things and improve their skills have an advantage over all those who – in terms of learning, at least – stand still. The effect of lifelong learning often shows up on paychecks later. In addition, LLL is a potential booster for self-motivation and self-actualization. Learning can act as a counterbalance to everyday professional and/or private life and help people discover and develop talents. So LLL can also be important for personality development. Studies also show that LLL can help prevent dementia. Those who learn not only for themselves, but also in groups or at universities, automatically expand their network. This, too, can pay off – literally – later in life.

Lifelong learning in companies

Companies cannot avoid the topic of “lifelong learning“. It is no longer enough to send employees on a course lasting several weeks when they start their careers. Particularly in the corporate context, learning must become a natural ongoing topic. The emphasis here is on “duration.” Technologies and entire industries are developing at breakneck speed, and digitization is advancing. Against this background, it is only logical that companies and their employees also need to develop further. If companies recognize this in good time and make lifelong learning part of their corporate culture, they will have a clear competitive advantage over all those who regard training and continuing education as a necessary evil. Precisely because companies can benefit considerably from their employees learning new things, they must also make their contribution. Both are needed: motivated employees who want to learn, and companies that create appropriate learning environments. At their best, these learning environments are digital spaces. Because: e-learning offers companies the perfect opportunity to establish a culture of lifelong learning. e-Learning brings with it three advantages that are basic prerequisites for LLL: Flexibility, self-determination, and the targeting of motivational factors. If LLL is to work, it must be possible regardless of time and location. Employees should be able to learn when it is best for them. e-Learning makes this possible. The corresponding digital training courses are permanently available and can – keyword mobile learning – also be accessed via smartphone and tablet. In addition, e-learning promotes self-directed and independent learning. Employees prefer to learn when they can determine the pace and content themselves. And last but not least: e-learning can be used to specifically address motivational factors. Challenges, time limits, rewards, or direct feedback keep learners on the ball and focused on learning content.

The good news at the end: Companies don’t need to advertise lifelong learning to younger employees. For Generations Y and Z, it is a matter of course to constantly educate themselves. We took a look at what makes the young people who are currently shaking up the labor market tick in a separate blog post.