Career Development

The Value of Learning and Development in the Workplace

January 3, 2021

Learning and development can occur anywhere, but when you’re trying to improve your skills in the workplace, it’s important to know how continuous development impacts you. There are several ways that learning and skill development can be achieved on both the employee side of the business and the employer side. Some training programs are formal and include structured education, others are not. In this article, you’ll learn all about ongoing learning and development in the workplace and what it means for your career.

What is learning and development in the workplace?

Ongoing learning and development refer to both formal and informal education that allows you to expand your skillset to adapt to an ever-changing environment. This can include things like continuous education at a local college or professional development courses or on-job-training.

Many of the skills you learn through ongoing learning and development, whether they are skills in leadership, communication, collaboration or more tangible skills like learning how to use a piece of software or a specific technique, will be transferable. You can take them with you to your next job and throughout the rest of your career. Learning new skills will also make you more competitive for promotion and for other jobs you might be interested in. Ongoing learning and development can help you achieve your career goals.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

Informal vs. formal learning and development

You can learn through informal or formal learning and development methods, although most employees and workplaces will engage in both forms.

Informal learning is probably the most common form of learning because it does not require any sort of curriculum or structure. Informal learning is ideal for more experienced employees who want to hone their skills, learn by doing or learn from their colleagues by working alongside them. 

Informal training is typically not institutionalized or evaluated. 

Rather, it often happens so naturally that you may not even know of it. For example, you could chat with a colleague over lunch about their favorite way to use a piece of software, learn how to complete a particular task by asking a peer how they do it or read a newspaper article on a work-relevant topic. Although this is not formally offered or even noticed by your management, it still counts as learning and development.

In contrast, formal training is usually institutionalized by an organization’s management. Formal learning and development typically have explicitly declared learning objectives or skills that learners are expected to know by the end of the training, uses a variety of learning methods to convey knowledge and applies an evaluation at the end to see how much participants have learned and whether the training’s goals were reached.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Workplace Training?

How can ongoing learning and development improve your career?

Ongoing learning and development can contribute to helping your career in several ways. These include:

Improved work performance

Ongoing professional development can help you perform better at your job. Training can give you a better understanding of your job responsibilities and mastery over the tasks you need to perform, which will likely boost your confidence. More competence and confidence will make you a better work performer.

Improved morale

Engaging in ongoing learning and development can give you greater satisfaction in your current job. By mastering the technical details and skills needed for your role, you’ll feel better about your performance. Accessing training can also make you feel challenged. Overall, this can improve your morale and make you feel better at work.

Skill improvement

Almost every employee will have one or two workplace skills that can use improvement, no matter how good they already are at their job. Training and development allow you to deal with those weaknesses and take your skills to the next level. This will also improve your team’s overall productivity if team members are relying on one another to complete basic work tasks. Dealing with weaknesses across the team will make it easier for your team to work independently, without constant supervision and correction.

How learning and development can improve the workplace?

From a manager’s perspective, effective learning in the workplace can make your team more productive and more highly motivated and give them greater satisfaction within their jobs. Ongoing learning helps organizations adapt to changing and increasingly competitive environments. Here are some benefits to training and development programs in the workplace:

High-performance employees

An increase of highly skilled employees who perform better is one of the main benefits of creating a work environment that centers on learning. When employees are trained to do better at their jobs, not only do they improve their skills, but they operate more safely and show others how to do the same. All around, employee efficiency improves when workers are skilled in their roles.

Provides a structured training environment

A structured learning environment provides consistent training to employees. In an environment like this, all employees know the same basic knowledge required for the job, and they can see that employers are invested in their overall success. 

Increased employee job satisfaction

When job satisfaction is high in the workplace, it leads to higher morale and all-around better results. Job satisfaction also impacts employee retention, and retention saves enterprise businesses money on additional new hire training and onboarding.

Related: What Is On-the-Job Training?

How to support learning and development at work

There are a wide variety of methods you can use to take on either formal or informal ongoing learning and development. Here is a list of several options that may be available to you:

Apprenticeships and internships

Back in the day, apprenticeships were how most craftspeople learned a craft. By working with a recognized master, an apprentice can learn the skills and professional norms of their craft. Today, working as an apprentice or intern often means that you will not receive a salary, but in return for working for free you can pick up professional skills from senior people in your field. Because apprenticeships and internships allow you to learn by doing, they can be a very effective way to learn new skills.

Career counseling

You can work with a counselor at your university or graduate school or hire an outside career counselor to help you develop a career plan. Career counselors can help you to identify the areas where you would like to improve and connect you to resources that will help you pick up those skills and capabilities.

Workshops and courses

In many professions, it is possible to enroll in a course outside of the workplace to learn new skills or get a focused overview of a particular subject area. In some careers, such as for attorneys, doctors, or nurses, it is even required to take ongoing professional development courses to maintain a license. While some professionals pursue a master’s degree, enrolling in a course in a local community college or an online class is a less expensive and less time-consuming way to attain new skills and knowledge. Extension schools affiliated with universities also offer practical courses for professionals and can usually be taken part-time.

Membership in a professional organization

Joining a professional organization or guild is a wonderful way to expand your professional network and access professional development opportunities. Many professional organizations offer a discount or exclusive access to such opportunities for their members. Social events hosted by a professional organization can also give you opportunities to meet like-minded friends and professional contacts in your field.

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