CONTINUAL LEARNING

Definition:

Grasps the essence of new information, masters new technical and business knowledge, recognizes personal strengths and weaknesses, pursues self-development, and seeks feedback from others and opportunities to master new knowledge. 

Importance

Continual learning is particularly critical in times of change, since those organizations that are flexible, adaptive and productive (learning organizations) will excel.  The active pursuit of learning and development, the creation of intellectual capital, the transformation of experience into knowledge, and the use of that knowledge to address new challenges and to improve future performance contribute to continuous improvement.  This organizational knowledge is essential to future success as government is facing massive retirements in the near future.  

How is This Competency Demonstrated?

 

An organization that embraces continual learning requires individuals at all levels to take the responsibility and the initiative to build knowledge and skills, maintain currency in their professional field, and be open to new ideas.  Individuals must be reflective and possess the ability to accurately assess themselves, including identifying their own strengths and knowledge “gaps.”  Such learning entails soliciting honest feedback to discover what is difficult to see in oneself. 

 

At higher levels (mid-level leaders through executive) it means investing in people; creating and maintaining support for creative developmental opportunities for others.  It includes the capacity to coach, to identify the strengths of others, and to build on them.  It results in the creation of a learning organization and preparing one’s team, group or organization for an ill-defined future.  It requires the systematic development of a learning culture that encourages mutuality, collaboration, curiosity, and reflection, as well as an effective learning infrastructure, developmental framework, and knowledge management.  It means developing specific ways of organizing resources and opportunities that promote regular reflection and sharing and profiting from lessons learned across the organization.  It means building opportunities for learning/continuous improvement within groups and across the organization.  To begin with, management must, themselves, model continuous self-development. 

 

A first appointment leader must be able to identify gaps in knowledge and skill on a team and promote individuals’ further technical development so as to keep the team current with the latest knowledge and information.  They must identify and make assignments that challenge abilities and develop self confidence.  They have insight into individuals’ learning profiles and styles and use that knowledge to develop team members.  They foster learning, use relational skills, and network with others to share knowledge and resources

 

Mid-level leaders must provide support for traditional and creative developmental opportunities, identifying and building on the strengths of individuals, and coaching and mentoring them.  They analyze actions and contribute to procedures that enable learning from past outcomes while fostering knowledge sharing and learning across units.  Mid-level leaders ensure that all employees have an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and link IDPs to both developmental assignments and the agency’s strategic needs.  They assume the role of career coach and see it as an investment in human capital resources. 

 

Senior leaders must clearly define training goals and expectations and link them to Agency strategic objectives and goals, ensuring that effective IDPs that support the Agency mission and strategy are present for all and they incorporate measures of effectiveness into all training and development initiatives.  Senior leaders design and implement Knowledge Management (KM) systems, applying the tools and techniques of KM to transfer learning and share it across the organization as they plan strategically for changing organizational needs in skills and knowledge, assessing organizational skills and strengths against current and future requirements. 

 

At the Executive level, continual learning means investing in human capital and incorporating employee development into the agency budgeting and planning processes.  The Executive must create and support an environment that facilitates learning, networking, and knowledge sharing, and translate that into strategic planning and work activities.  They promote benchmarking and other techniques that help build upon best practices, use “Balanced Scorecard” and/or other tools to ensure that resources to develop the Agency’s human resources are identified and obtained, and set high expectations for learning achievements.  It is essential that Executives communicate the importance of learning as part of the organizational strategy and ensure that senior leaders and mid-level leaders have been properly trained to coach, evaluate and conduct employee career discussions.

 

Elements of the Competency and Distinguishing Behaviors

 

Element

Distinguishing Behaviors

Values learning and takes initiative to build knowledge and skills. 

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

 

  • Strives for continuous improvement and is actively engaged in exploring new ideas and concepts.
  • Seeks out and engages in self-improvement activities.
  • Spends time learning from others.
  • Creates time within and away from the job to learn.
  • Seeks challenging assignments and unfamiliar tasks.
  • Seeks out new developments, techniques, advances in knowledge and ideas. 
  • Seeks out new approaches, tools, and methods in their own field of expertise.
  • Maintains professional certification or license, if appropriate.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Encourages and supports professional growth including pursuit of appropriate certifications and licenses.
  • Gives others the autonomy to approach issues in their own way, including the opportunity to make and learn from mistakes.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Invests in the further development of personal supervisory skills, in better understanding the issues and needs that affect customers, and in their own field-specific expertise.
  • Reinforces knowledge, skills and new behaviors gained through training and development by helping employees apply them on the job.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Models continuous self-development.
  • Adds to managerial knowledge, strategic thinking, financial planning and analysis, as well as skills in supporting a learning organization.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

 

  • Continually updates their own and others’ awareness of the organization and the big picture context within which we work.

Is reflective and learns from mistakes.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

 

  • Analyzes both successes and failures for clues to improvement.
  • Is resilient towards setbacks and failures, analyzing them for lessons learned and building on them.
  • Confronts problems instead of avoiding them.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Uses after-action reviews to assess performance.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Uses a variety of approaches to analyze and understand how actions led to certain outcomes and how to improve one’s approach to similar situations in the future.
  • Is open about mistakes and failure with self and others.
  • Contributes to procedures that enable the organization to learn from past actions.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Plans, implements and learns from program and policy evaluation strategies. 

 

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

 

  • Ensures that new organizational policies, programs, procedures and services are built to incorporate and profit from lessons learned.
  • Ensures that stakeholders understand results of policy and program evaluation.

Assesses gaps in knowledge and skill in self and in others.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

 

  • Assesses their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Actively seeks feedback on their performance
  • Understands their strengths and potential “fatal flaws” in knowledge and performance.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Recognizes and addresses team and team member strengths and potential “fatal flaws” in knowledge and performance. 
  • Draws on individual team member strengths rather than weaknesses to fashion assignments and help develop others in the team.
  • Gives decision making authority to the team, where appropriate.  Avoids taking over all decisions.
  • Rewards and recognizes the good use of team skills, not just individual contributions.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Measures current skills and knowledge against competencies needed for continuing success and to meet future problems.
  • Evaluates the impact of training on performance.

Understands the value of knowledge sharing.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

 

  • Actively seeks learning in areas beyond their own technical expertise in order to become a broader resource.
  • Participates actively in professional associations(s).

 

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Networks with others and supports team-networking to share resources, knowledge, and build upon rather than replicate the work of others.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Coaches and mentors employees.
  • Fosters knowledge sharing and learning across units.
  • Actively engages in partnering activities that align common goals and services.
  • Serves as a source of wisdom and expertise on technical and organizational matters for employees

 

ADDITIONAL FOR SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Applies tools and techniques of Knowledge Management to share learning widely across the organization.
  • Identifies best practices from high-performance organizations with similar missions.
  • Helps the organization learn from customers and stakeholders and translates that learning into improved ways of performing. 

 

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

 

  • Develops processes and/or systems to ensure that what is learned in training or practice is shared throughout the organization and applied to work activities and strategic planning.
  • Cooperates and/or networks across disciplinary, organizational, agency and public/private boundaries to establish and reach common understanding on issues and opportunities. 
  • Promotes benchmarking and other techniques that help an agency build upon best practices.
  • Broadly communicates throughout the organization the need to understand others’ viewpoints, agendas, values, constraints and behaviors and be willing to take others’ ideas into consideration.

Demonstrates knowledge of learning styles and uses a variety of strategies to close learning gaps.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

 

  • Crafts and uses for their own development a variety of learning approaches, including formal course work, reading, talking with others, attending formal training, shadowing, detail assignments, and-on-the-job experiences.
  • Understands their preferred learning style and methods.
  • Uses the IDP to link assessments, career goals and organizational strategies to personal development plans.
  • Works to deploy strengths.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Supports the team’s use of a variety of learning methods, including reading, talking with others, after-action reviews, attending formal training, and on-the-job experiences. 
  • Shows insight into individuals’ learning profiles and styles when making assignments or devising developmental strategies.
  • Identifies and makes assignments that challenge team members to stretch their abilities and self confidence.

 

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Creates and makes developmental assignments to stretch and foster learning and development in employees.
  • Delegates responsibility and decision making to lower levels to develop employees.
  • Ensures that all employees have an IDP.  Links IDPs and developmental assignments to current and future organizational needs. 

Understands the concept of knowledge management and leads knowledge management efforts.

FOR SENIOR LEADERS AND EXECUTIVES:

 

  • Creates an environment that facilitates knowledge sharing, learning, and networking which can support change.
  • Builds the organization’s capacity to learn, improve, anticipate and meet new challenges.
  • Designs, implements, and orchestrates Knowledge Management strategies and initiatives throughout the organization. 
Integrates the development of human capital into strategic planning and creates an integrated approach to address current problems and meet emerging demands. 

FOR SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

 

  • Assesses organizational skills and strengths against current and future requirements.
  • Manages expenditures for training and development as investments that maximize the value of human capital plans strategically for changing organizational needs in skills and knowledge.

 

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