Remote Work

Remote Workplaces Need Continuous Learning Initiatives

Despite the effort to make sure employees can still work from home, there’s been a lack of support for helping employees learn from home as well. Continuous learning is an approach in the workplace that gets employees to participate in learning activities regularly rather than only at predetermined times like once a quarter. In this article, we outline why continuous learning is necessary for remote workplaces, examples, and how to build a culture of learning.

Ryan Carruthers

October 15, 2021

Remote workplaces are here to stay. According to PwC research, less than one in five executives want to return to a pre-pandemic work model. And over half of employees want to continue working from home. 

To adapt to change companies are investing heavily in collaborative technologies like virtual collaboration tools, training, and IT infrastructure.

This is the new normal–workplace learning and upskilling needs to adapt to it.

Companies invested in remote working tools, but not remote learning tools

Despite the effort to make sure employees can still work from home, there’s been a lack of support for helping employees learn from home as well. 

McKinsey, for example, observed that in the early days of the pandemic, roughly half of in-person learning programs were postponed or cancelled. Rather than adapting learning for a remote workplace, companies opted to wait. McKinsey emphasizes in their report that “companies can’t simply push the pause button on critical workplace learning.”

Rather than adapting learning for a remote workplace, companies opted to wait.

This is the new normal–workplace learning and upskilling needs to adapt to it. For that reason, HR and L&D teams face a unique challenge: how to introduce engaging workplace learning initiatives to their remote or hybrid workplaces that support lifelong learning. Our proposition is that organizations should be supporting continuous learning for their remote teams. 


What Is Continuous Learning In The Workplace?

Continuous learning is an approach in the workplace that gets employees to participate in learning activities regularly rather than only at predetermined times like once a quarter. Doing so not only encourages employees to seek out learning opportunities in their day-to-day but also bolsters life long learning. There are a variety of ways that you can integrate continuous learning in the workplace. It can include formal training courses, more causal peer learning, or online classes. The emphasis, however, is on changing the mindset around workplace learning and getting teams to regularly consume and apply what they learn.

Adopting a continuous learning approach means your employees can be regularly updating their skills and knowledge.

If your organization wants to have employees equipped for the future, they’ll need to help them continue to grow, learn, and overcome challenges. People need to learn new things to broaden their perspective and encourage them to be more innovative. This goes for both in-person or remote teams. 


The Importance Of Continuous Learning For Remote Employees

The changing nature of business means that your top employees today could have outdated skills tomorrow. 

A study by the World Economic Forum found that “at least 54% of all employees will need reskilling and upskilling by 2022. Yet only 30% of employees at risk of job displacement from technological changes received training in the past year, and those most at risk are often the ones who are least likely to receive any retraining at all.”

Adopting a continuous learning approach means your employees can be regularly updating their skills and knowledge. It also has the added benefit of helping your staff develop a flexible and adaptable mindset. 

Continuous learning can also make your organization more competitive as your employees will be better equipped to innovate and overcome future challenges. It will also reduce your turnover rates, increase employee loyalty, and attract top talent. Consider the results of numerous studies:

This research signals the importance of continuous learning for employees. On the other hand, 40% of employees with poor training are likely to leave the company within the first year. So L&D teams need to get their learning initiatives right or it can backfire. Continuous learning is the solution. Let’s look at examples of how it works.


Examples Of Continuous Learning In Remote Organizations

Learning opportunities for remote employees will look different than your in-house workers. But, they are just as important. Some ways that you can provide continuous learning for your remote workers include:

Self-directed E-learning courses

Offering training that your staff can do when it fits their schedule is a great way to encourage your remote employees to develop new skills. It is also a low-cost option for organizations because you won’t have to pay for a professional instructor to come to your site. 360 Learning, for example, enables employees to build their own courses based on their unique knowledge and share that with their colleagues. This is an excellent way to encourage knowledge sharing

Social Learning is emerging as a way for organizations to connect newly remote workplaces and invest in their employees’ development.

Social learning

Social Learning is how we learn most effectively: observing, imitating, and getting feedback from others. University of California, Berkeley states that:

“Social Learning involves participation and can take place in either a formal (i.e. working on a course together with a cohort) or informal (i.e. daily, casual occurrences of working and learning in a team) settings.”

Social Learning is emerging as a way for organizations to connect newly remote workplaces and invest in their employees’ development. Social Learning builds a more connected workforce while also accelerating their professional training. It’s equal parts culture-building and employee development

Together empowers organizations to accelerate their employee learning and development through Social Learning programs. Our Social Learning programs enable organizations to leverage mentorship, peer learning, and learning circles (mentoring and peer learning in groups) to level up their employee development initiatives. 

Rather than solo training programs that emphasize coursework and quizzes, employees can connect with each other and accelerate their professional development through career-changing guidance from mentors and encouragement from peers.


How Do You Promote Continuous Learning In The Workplace?

The most effective way to promote continuous learning at work for remote teams is to leverage Social Learning strategies: mentorship, peer learning, and group learning. Let’s explore each in detail. 

Mentorship

Workplace mentoring programs connect senior employees with less experienced ones. The purpose is to take all the experience that they’ve accumulated throughout their career and life and transfer it to their mentee to help them grow in their career. In a mentoring relationship, both the mentee and the mentors stand to experience a myriad of benefits. For organizations, mentoring programs can be a key part of their succession or talent development strategies.

Empower remote employees with mentorship. A strong mentorship program emphasizes the importance of culture and community despite physical distance.

Peer learning

When it comes to learning new skills in the workplace, over half of employees learn from their co-workers. Allowing peers to learn from each other can be another excellent way to encourage continuous learning at your organization. Sharing knowledge with teams has been seen as a critical learning method by 87 percent of employees

Despite its benefits, many organizations overlook the benefits of peer learning. This may be because employers feel that outside experts are more qualified to train their teams–something HBR researchers have found

Encouraging peer learning opportunities in your organization is a great way to improve employee engagement and reduce turnover. It also helps you capitalize on the talent you already have by using current employees to help others in your organization to develop new skills.

Group learning

Group Learning comes from the work of Lev Vygotsky's Zone Of Proximal Development. The Zone Of Proximal Development states that learners rely on one another when tackling tasks they can't complete alone. Essentially, with others, things get better and easier. 

Group Learning in the workplace is employee training that accelerates career development by providing an opportunity for collaboration, discussion, and problem-solving. Instead of individual study, employees are learning from each other.  Group learning is more engaging for employees and increases retention of what’s learned. Some studies show that Group Learning directly improves employee performance and ability to learn.


Build A Culture Of Learning With Social Learning Programs

As social media has become a phenomenon, the idea of Social Learning has taken off too. Although it can include using popular platforms, Social Learning in the workplace contains other collaborative methods, such as:

  • Cloud services
  • Internal wikis
  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • E-learning courses

Researchers have defined two types of learning:

  • Passive - demonstrations, lectures, etc. 
  • Participatory - group discussions, teaching others, etc.

Those involved in participatory learning retain information better than those who undergo passive training, according to Maine researchers. For example, employees who teach others have a 90 percent retention rate. Those who are involved in group discussions have a 50 percent retention rate, according to the studies from Maine. Compared with a 10 percent retention rate for reading or five percent retention from lectures, having employees actively involved in learning is key.

Social learning offers people the opportunity to solve their problems today. Through collaboration with co-workers and digital information, your remote employees can figure out how to engage customers better right now. In comparison, formal training programs can be seen as irrelevant, particularly if the topic they address is not something that participants are concerned about today. 

There are many benefits to a remote or hybrid workplace and some unique challenges as well. Finding ways to engage your employees while they work from home is crucial to keeping them. 

Investing in technology and IT infrastructure is essential, but you’ll also need to find ways to support continuous learning for your employees. These opportunities will help them grow, your organization keep skills up-to-date, and your company overcome future challenges. 

A strong workplace mentoring program can help you keep your remote employees engaged and help them learn new skills. Find out how Together’s mentoring software can enhance continuous learning for your remote workplace. Book a demo today.

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