Iva Terzić, Team Leader For Learning And Development, HR Business Partnership Department, OTP Banka Srbija

The Importance Of Lifelong Learning And Development In Today’s Business Environment

Learning is a process that continues from the very moment of a person’s birth. It is for this reason that many view this process as a given. Children are naturally curious beings that learn through the process of exploring the world around them. From the instant of their birth, people are directed towards new things. When our curiosity regarding some new phenomenon is satisfied, we seek to investigate it, and that process leads to us reaching new revelations and making new discoveries. Does that feeling also stay with us later, when we grow up; do we continue to learn, with that same zeal, through the process of exploring the world around us?

The only constant in life is change – said Heraclitus. Change that can occur anywhere, in our careers, change in our personal life, change in our community and organisations. Lifelong learning is one of the most effective ways of facing changes. Learning is essential to our existence. Just as food nurtures our bodies, so information and constant learning nurture our minds.

Continuous learning is our self-motivating persistence in acquiring knowhow and competencies in order to expand our skillset and develop future possibilities. It is part of our personal and professional development in endeavouring to avoid stagnation and realise our full potential, enabling us to practise the skill of constant adjustment.

Continuous learning, better known as lifelong learning, is a concept that encourages the endless expanding of knowledge and skills. The more knowledge of various fields that we acquire, the better we will understand the changes that happen. Lifelong learning is an irreplaceable resource for every career and company.

Lifelong learning and constant development are today essential parts of acquiring the skill of critical thinking and uncovering new ways of relating to people from different cultures. Living life without learning constantly is simply unthinkable. And if we find ourselves in the role of an employee, learning becomes our power to advance.

Lifelong learning also provides the possibility for us to develop new ideas and innovative solutions to modern problems and the conflicts that we face in the workplace. In a society led by technology, continuous learning is no longer optional. Companies and workers who fail to grasp the importance of continuous workplace learning will inevitably struggle to keep their operations afloat.

On the other side, the main reason that every company should support the concept of lifelong learning and constant development is that, without such an agile and adaptable culture, they will stagnate or fail to progress in the business environment. The speed at which things are changing, such as industrial trends and technological progress, means that we must always be one step ahead. Constant technological progress continues to change the very nature of jobs, and it is thus necessary for companies to move extremely quickly towards reliance on their own ability to learn and adjust swiftly.

Lifelong learning in a business environment implies the observing of experiences to date as opportunities for new learning and the re-examining of assumptions, values, methods, policies and practices. Employees are expected to be their own researchers, who will come up with ways to access relevant information, resolve specific situations and handle challenges.

Today’s employees can choose the tools they want to learn something new every day. Thus, for example, they can build a habit of reading, hold discussions with experts they know and ask them questions, join certain organisations, learn while teaching others, i.e., learn for themselves while transferring knowledge to others, conducting their own research, observing the world around us, applying what they’ve learned, utilising MOOC platforms like Udemy and Coursera, listening to TED videos and podcasts etc.

OTP banka Srbija is the largest creditor both to the corporate and retail sectors, as well as the market leader in factoring, leasing and e-commerce services. OTP banka is focused on innovation and the digitalisation of its operations, which enables customers to gain new benefits with a focus on advancing digital banking and improving the customer experience. One of the key strategic directions is the green transition, i.e., a commitment to sustainable operations and ecological projects. Thanks to OTP banka’s presence, with 184 branches in 91 towns and cities, clients across Serbia have at their disposal a wide range of products and services, as well as an efficient service and offers that are tailored to their specific needs, while its network of almost 300 ATMs is the largest in our country.

Similarly, company leaders should set an example through their own behaviour by encouraging lifelong learning and enabling employees to access learning opportunities through motivation and acknowledging efforts to learn and adopt new skills.

Companies can also go a step further by allocating time to learn during working hours, such as setting aside an hour to read business books, listen to webinars or practice new skills.

With consideration for all of the aforementioned, in order for lifelong learning to function, companies must have teams, programmes and systems that enable the creation of such an environment, which includes expert content and instruction, coupled with the utilising of internal experience and knowhow. Every employee should receive access to constant flows of information and understanding. Employees can not only learn from one another and collaborate mutually, but rather they also need to be able to do so while performing their everyday roles and responsibilities. This results in learning becoming an essential part of the job, and not a special activity on a special platform. When lifelong learning exists, that helps employees adapt with new skillsets. Companies want their employees to remain engaged in their work and to be skilled in what they do. When a culture of lifelong learning exists in a company, it results in engagement and productivity.

A question that will also arise is whether supporting an environment of lifelong learning to develop employees will lead them to leaving the organisation. However, the reality is actually the opposite, with employees who lack opportunities to develop themselves or participate in joint activities more likely to seek work elsewhere.

Even when companies establish tools that facilitate lifelong learning, they still require individual members to bring new ideas, considerations and resources that can benefit everyone else. As such, supporting lifelong learning is just as important as a company deciding that it really wants this form of learning.

Lifelong learning is essential for us to prepare for the future in the best possible way. However, it isn’t possible for lifelong learning to become part of a company’s corporate culture in just one day, rather time is required for everyone in the company to grow accustomed to it. Building a culture of lifelong learning helps organisations to more effectively engage their employees and empower them with skills that benefit both parties. The learning process also gradually becomes a habit that helps employees to research and acquire knowledge about all the things that are changing constantly. Lifelong learning helps an individual to utilise everyday business situations in the best possible way and take control of their career. That’s why I think it’s crucial – when we recognise that feeling of curiosity to learn something – that we research, solve problems and continue, as adults, to learn through the process of exploring the world around us with the same zeal and as naturally as children. Lifelong learning is becoming the lifestyle of each of us.

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