Embrace The Joy of Learning

The other day I briefly became involved in a discussion on Twitter about the need for people within Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) to engage in Continuous Professional Development (CPD.) That’s something I fully support because all of us need to keep abreast of developments within our own fields of expertise. However, there’s another reason I firmly believe that we should be engaged in CPD and that’s because we can have an impact on those we work with throughout our organisations.

I am passionate about what I tend to refer to as the sheer “joy of learning” and that it is something which can become infectious. By showing a real commitment, engagement with and joy at learning new things we can encourage others to engage with their own learning and development. If we act as role models for continuous professional development or learning then others can be influenced by us and the organisation as a whole will continue to grow.

I know that when it comes to ongoing learning and development in the workplace, the prospect of keeping your skills relevant on a continual basis may seem daunting. However, learning new things and increasing our marketable skills doesn’t have to be an laborious task it really can be a pleasure endeavour. The attitude which we adopt about the process can have a large impact upon our experience and that of those we work with. Continuing education can be an opportunity to discover the joy of learning with the right outlook. Let’s take a look at how rewarding it can truly be.

Not Just a Means To An End

You may feel that you must constantly hone your skills through continuing professional development, in order to remain competitive in the workplace. Or, perhaps your professional body or your company requires you to complete a minimum number of CPD hours each year. Either way, when you think of this as another hoop that you must jump through, it is likely to diminish your experience and even the amount of benefit that you receive from the development.

In contrast, whether taken voluntarily or mandated by your profession or organisation, continuing development can enrich your professional life. You will have access to the latest information, trends and techniques in your chosen field – allowing you to stay on the cutting edge. This will not only give you an advantage over your peers, but it can help you to become more efficient and effective as well. In addition, with new methods and ideas to try, it can provide you with more outlets to be creative and proactive about your daily tasks. All of these can work to bring you more joy in your professional duties, as you enjoy your career more.
Enjoy the Process

Yet, while the end result can be increased productivity, marketability and knowledge, part of the joy of learning comes from the process itself. Many people rarely get the opportunity to take time out just to learn in their adult life, and continuing development in the workplace provides you with the perfect chance.

You will be able to investigate areas of interest to you, or delve deeper into topics regarding your work that you’ve always been curious about. Learning new tips and skills also helps to keep your mind working well, and your cognitive abilities sharp. That’s why I would encourage you to approach your continuing professional development as a fun challenge, rather than just a necessary task.

The Benefits

Not only can ongoing learning and professional development provide you with new information and greater marketability – it can increase your earning power as well. This can work in several ways, the first being the greater mastery of your occupation. You’ll have more expertise to offer your employer, which can often translate into a bigger role or the opportunity to move on to a bigger role.

In addition, by keeping your work varied and your interest piqued, you’ll likely derive more pleasure from your job as well. How can this affect your earning capability? People who enjoy their work tend to do a better job, and invest more of themselves into their projects. Simply put, the more you enjoy your work and the more you learn about it, the greater your chances of advancement are.

Finally, by constantly improving and expanding your skills, you’ll have an advantage in the job market as well. You may find yourself being contacted by recruiters, or if you were to suddenly need another job, you should have less trouble finding a new position.

In summary, I firmly believe that ongoing learning and professional development in the workplace can be both a pleasurable and a beneficial experience. Rather than a duty that you must perform, it can be something that you should enjoy. It can not only enhance your understanding of your occupation, and provide you with valuable techniques and strategies for success, but it can inspire those you work with to embrace their own opportunities for learning and development. For all of these reasons, approaching your continuing professional development with a positive attitide is an opportunity to enrich your professional life and to embrace the the joy of learning.

Learning Isn’t Just For Learning At Work Week

As I write it’s Learning at Work Week here in the UK and that set me thinking about how much learning takes place without there needing to be a formal structure to it.

I can think of so many instances where I have learnt something which I have then been able to apply in my own work. As an example I well recall being in a meeting where the discussion was getting quite heated and noticing how the person chairing the meeting dealt with it to diffuse the situation and leave all parties happy. That was real learning at work which I was able to observe, reflect on, implement when I encountered a similar situation and then evaluate the learning that had occurred.

Now, I am not suggesting that for Learning at Work Week you go in search of heated discussions in meetings! However, I want to look at some ways in which you and I can learn without having to participate in a formal “learning” event.

Start With a Personal Learning Journal or Portfolio.

Learning at Work is not a simple A to B journey from a single goal to a single outcome, it is a process of continuous discovery and a Personal Learning Portfolio or Learning Journal helps you to keep track of and reflect on what you have learnt and discovered as you progress. You might be thinking that it seem a little time consuming to record your findings and thoughts but I have consistently found that being able to revisit the notes I have made over the years has sparked new learning and new avenues to investigate so it is something I highly recommend to you.

Engage With Your Colleagues

Talking to colleagues about what they are doing, what they have learnt or discovered, how they have tackled issues and so offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from them. People love to talk about their successes and as you establish a rapport with people they will be more open to talking about the failures that led to their successes. Engage with your colleagues at work and talk about how they overcame problems, what approaches they took to particular issues and challenges and how they managed to deal with them. Look around you now, if you are reading this at work, and just consider for a moment the amazing opportunities for personal learning that are available from the collective experience and knowledge of your colleagues!

Chat with them about their experiences, so that you can learn from past problems, develop potential solutions and work towards improving your performance – both as an individual and ultimately as a department or organisation.

Informal Group/Social Interactions

Following on from this idea of learning at work by talking with colleagues, there are many ways to use social, informal learning to interact with others in the workplace. If there are a group of you who would like to learn about the role of an individual within the organisation or perhaps discover how someone deals with their challenges then why not invite them to a lunchtime or after work session with a whiteboard in the staffroom? It can be a great way to share ideas and to learn new things. The results achieved are not just about personal, individual gains; the group effort can also improve interpersonal skills and even help with communication between departments.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Obviously you are keeping up to date with what is happening within your own workplace and staying on top of the goals of the organisation and the challenges it faces. However think about expanding your horizons,to keep up to date with news and events in your industry as a whole.

This can be done in many ways: social media is a great tool for engaging with other in the industry which I talked about in my post Social Media for Learning. But in summary, online discussion groups with others in similar roles offer an informal forum for discussion, news outlets are a constant source of up-to-date information and blogs can offer insights on potential trends and forecasts with alternative viewpoints. Gather as much information as possible and don’t be put off by the source – speculation on a niche blog from a real professional in your industry can be a great way of learning new things and stretching your mind.

I wrote about taking up the opportunities which many organisations offer to learn new things outside of work. If that is something that appeals to you and you want or need to learn aboout project management, public speaking, leadership and much more do take a look at A World of Learning Opportunities.

Enjoy Learning at Work week if you are in the UK! Take the opportunity to start the incredible journey available to you and remember Learning isn’t just for Learning at Work Week – it’s for ever!