The Business Case for Continuing Education
This is an easy one, since our fast paced world requires us to stay relevant. Continuing our education allows us to stay relevant. We receive an almost constant flow of information throughout our days from people, radio, TV, social media, newspapers, and sometimes actual books. This constant and fast-paced information flow requires us to maintain a certain level of knowledge in our respective industries to avoid getting behind.
Staying Relevant in All Aspects of Business in a fast paced world:
- Industry Specific
- Information Technology
- Customer Experience
All of these aspects of business and more that I didn’t list require us to stay up to date and innovate. One of the business owners I respect and follow is Nick Bare, owner of Bare Performance Nutrition. In his latest YouTube video, he encourages his viewers to be “learning machines”. Even with the massive success his company has seen, Nick continues to read books and listen to podcasts in an effort to stay relevant and be the best human, business owner, and team member that he can be.
Making Learning Fun
With everything we need to get done in a day, it can seem cumbersome to add in an hour or two of learning. We can find ourselves getting out of the habit of learning new information once we finish formal schooling, and now it probably seems like a drag. Most of us were good at learning lessons from our teachers, studying, and passing tests with enough skill that we could graduate. Once we are in a career stage of our lives, we may have to re-learn how to learn. Just like we did as students, we can find ways to make learning fun. This time around, the knowledge we earn can help us advance in our careers and hopefully earn more moolah in the process.
You may need to achieve a certification or set number of continuing education credits for your current position or career path. A great way to make it easier on yourself is to get others involved. Are there people in your company or in your alumni group that have similar continuing education goals? Maybe your family can help you study on certain nights of the week. Depending on your learning style, it is almost always beneficial to work on your education endeavors with others helping you achieve your goal. They can motivate you and interpret the information in different ways that help your learning process be more than one dimensional.
To keep motivation up, keep tabs on someone you admire that already has the level of education you are hoping for. Maybe follow them on social media and find ways to connect further. If they are in your area, perhaps you can chat with them in person. Either way, they may be willing to have a virtual meeting with you to discuss their educational journey. There may be someone in your company that has achieved the education level or certification you are seeking. If you don’t already know them, find a good opportunity to introduce yourself. They may also be willing to talk with you and offer advice. Being able to observe the “future you” or a version of someone who has furthered their education can be just the thing you need to stay motivated. Continuing education does require extra effort that is in addition to all the energy you currently put into work, school, family, and hobbies. That’s why seeing the potential benefits like career advancement, higher pay, signing more contracts, etc. can be a great source of motivation.
For the business leaders and managers who want their team to stay on top of their continuing education, find ways to make it fun for them. Providing incentives can help your team complete continuing education instead of dreading it until the last minute. Cramming all continuing education credits in the day before they are due to renew a license is no fun and does nothing for productivity levels. Incentives can take many forms and can be whatever appeals to your specific team the most. Those who accomplish continuing education milestones can be announced at team meetings or be featured in a company publication, blog, or social media post. Even if it seems small, any incentive can make a big difference in motivating someone.
Identifying Information Gaps
Would you consider your company or the team or department you are in as relevant in today’s world? If your business is surviving, it must have some relevance to paying customers. But, does your team know the latest products, service standards, and industry news? Is there a culture of continuous learning in your company? These are good questions to ask from time to time, since companies that continuously learn, innovate, and stay relevant are the most successful.
Every industry has new research, products, testing, standards, and information that affects it. These are in place to protect consumers and adapt to new technologies. You should stay apprised of these in general and specifically when they affect your business or department. With that, you need to consider how your company and department receives new information. It may be a formal or informal process. When you are given new information to learn, it may be in the form of a presentation or video or training.
If it has been a while since you received new information about your industry, consider why that is. Have you been caught off guard when a customer knows about a new advancement in your industry that you were unaware of? These are good signs that there could be improvements to the way you and your company handle continuing education. It can be tough to tell a lot of employees and even business leaders that they could use more continuing education. Many people know their jobs well and do not like the idea of changing their approach or processes. For continuing education, try to use the presentation of new information as a way to bring the company together in a united front for learning and staying at the forefront of the industry.
Requirements for Licensure
Many professional licenses and certifications require continuing education, as they should. You wouldn’t want a medical professional to stop learning anything new after earning their degree. In many cases, formal schooling ended for the professionals you work with years and even decades ago. They use systems of continuing education to stay informed about the latest in their specific industries and maintain their credentials.
In a lot of industries, continuing education credits are monitored by third party organizations that set standards for all kinds of professionals including those in the medical, legal, building, and technology industries. I have two sustainable building certifications that require a certain amount of continuing education credits, so that I can renew my certifications every two years.
Project Specific Education
There are instances throughout your career when a new scenario requires you to do some research or take a class or attend a seminar. There are a number of reasons why you might need on-the-spot training, and it could be a new product idea or a type of project you haven’t had exposure to yet. Similarly, a new type of client could have different requirements than what you usually encounter. For example, a company could transition from working with private clients to working with the federal government. The standards, timelines, means of communication may change slightly or significantly. Either way, you’ll want to be in the know.
Your company may start new initiatives or campaigns that change your approach to your role. You may receive a promotion that gives you the opportunity to set standards and make decisions for which you’ll want to be up-to-date and informed. As businesses evolve, they often acquire another company or add a department that requires a period of transition and learning from all parties involved.
Professional organizations are often industry specific and can provide great resources for this type of continuing education. There are many online sources (paid and unpaid) from industry sources, universities, and individual companies that can get you started on your continuing education journey.
No matter the current stage of your career, you and your team can benefit from continuing education. It may seem unimportant to stay curious and continue learning new things if you are near the end of a career stage (i.e. retirement or transitioning to a different career path). There is no harm in learning additional information and skills. Doing so will always make you a better and more well rounded employee, mentor, and leader.
Encouraging yourself and your team to stay continually educated and updated on the latest in your industry will give you an edge that others are missing. You can be the first to come up with an innovative idea or approach that would take others much longer to come up with if they are not up to date. Your business strategies will not become stagnant, and your team is motivated to continually improve. I know that I have fallen behind on my continuing education and doing so left me feeling less motivated and connected to the work I was doing. The excitement that comes along with new information and ideas has helped me prevent burnout and stay motivated.
I hope this post inspires you to stay curious and keep your continuing education efforts strong.