The Importance of Lifelong Learning for Employee Development

Lifelong Learning for Employee Development

In December, many of us at EdAssist and a number of other divisions within Bright Horizons attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was an inspiring event with over 10,000 women joining to discuss business, leadership, philanthropy, health, finance, media and professional development.

As working adults, the event reminded all of us of the effect continuing education can have our personal and professional development.  It also demonstrated to each of us how a working environment that supports lifelong, ongoing education can build a true sense of loyalty and commitment to the success of one's organization.  In fact, many of us commented after the event how fortunate we felt to be employees of Bright Horizons, where management supports development through continuous learning and sends such a large number of employees to attend.

The event also gave us the opportunity to meet as a staff afterwards to discuss what we learned and how we plan to apply the lessons to be more productive professionals and citizens. To encourage our readers to also partake in lifelong learning, we're sharing what we learned that will help us in our personal and professional development.  

Five Things We Learned at the 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women

1. Confidence Matters in your Delivery

Don't be afraid to speak up and have your voice heard.  You don't always have to be right when speaking, but it's important to get your ideas out there and start discussions. Sit at the middle of the table, speak early in the meeting, and be confident with your opinions.

2. Myers Briggs Isn't the Be All, End All

Just because a personality test like the Myers Briggs was spot-on and supports the narrative of what you consider your strengths in the workplace, it doesn't mean that's all there is. Leadership advisor Erica Ariel Fox says to push yourself and not immediately excuse yourself from trying: ‘Oh, I'm not a touchy-feely person so I just can't do that.' Instead, tap different parts of your brain and challenge yourself to take small steps toward improving yourself. Tackling challenges will help you develop professionally and personally.

3. Take a Communications and Public Speaking Course

Communications and presenting are learned skills which should be added to your lifelong learning plans, and with any other skill - it takes practice. It's important to really think about the message you are trying to get across and hone your approach. To be an effective leader, you can develop yourself professionally by learning how to communicate strongly and convincingly.

4. Marry Leadership with Management

In a panel discussion facilitated by Harvard Business Review Editor Julia Kirby, several women in senior leadership roles discussed the difference between managing and leading:  managing is knowing how to do thing right, leading is knowing what are the right things to do.  The panel explored the importance of marrying the two roles to be an effective and productive leader.

5. Never underestimate the importance of "looking the part"

Well-known media executive and New York Times bestselling author Cathie Black shared that every morning she makes an intention for what she hopes to achieve that day. She stressed that dressing in line with those intentions often leads to more confidence and adds to the aura that says, "Yes, I belong in this seat" at work.  

What do you do to encourage professional development in your organization? Stay tuned for my upcoming post "How to Support Staff with Lifelong Learning."    

Written by: Jessica Kaplan

About the Author

Jessica Kaplan at Bright Horizons

As Director, Talent Management, Jessica is responsible for connecting employees and management to the most effective learning and development opportunities offered by Bright Horizons. She also helps facilitate internal collaboration for organizational success. Jessica brings nearly 20 years of experience in professional development and higher education administration to her role. Prior to this role she held key roles in the Client Relations and Academic Partnerships teams. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Tufts University, a Master’s degree in International Communication from American University and has completed PhD coursework in International Higher Education Policy at the University of Maryland.