Employers need to foster lifelong learning at work

Experts argue desire to learn is more important than current skills

Most jobs today require employees to continue learning and developing skills—but companies must play a role in fostering that continued education, two experts argue in Harvard Business Review. 

Mara Swan, executive vice president of global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup, and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, write that companies pay too much attention to what potential new hires already know and not enough to their capacity and eagerness to learn, or "learnability." 

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"Although learnability does boost academic performance, just because someone is job-ready when they obtain their educational credentials does not mean that they are also learning-ready," Swan and Chamorro-Premuzic write.

Yet the workplace often fails to encourage continued learning, they say, especially as employees must balance immediate responsibilities with the long-term learning goals.

They suggest three ways to foster growth in the office. 

1. Select the right people. Ensure training budgets are going toward employees who have proven their learnability, people who are curious and actually interested in learning.

2. Lead by example. Be sure to set a good standard for the office by carving out time in your calendar to learn and develop new skills.

"We are all time-deprived, but high learnability people make the time to learn new things," Swan and Chamorro-Premuzic write.

3. Reward learners. Set incentives to encourage employees along their learning path. These may be promoting people only when they've learned a certain amount of skills necessary to jobs other than their own, giving awards to individuals who organize learning events, or just providing new challenges to people with high learnability (Swan/Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review, 7/18).


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