by Anil Dissanayake

Life is a learning experience. Webster’s Dictionary defines learning as “the act or experience of one that learns; knowledge of skill acquired by instruction or study; modification of a behavioral tendency by experience. For communities to function and develop, learning needs to be planned, directed, evaluated and reviewed. It is demonstrable that, individuals, organizations and communities have benefits by ensuring that learning situations arise, learning can take place and that, through learning, the well-being of individuals, organizations and societies can be secured.

This article is about Life Long Learning. Lifelong learning is the “lifelong, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional up-liftment. It enhances social inclusion and personal development and improve scompetitiveness and employability. The term Life Long Learning recognizes that the learning takes place throughout the life and in a range of situations.

Why Life Long Learning?

Our working lives are increasingly defined and influenced by what we know rather than whom we work for, our designations, positions and status. Very fast and extensive growth of data is leading to information overload and inability to maintain a sense of control over our working and non working lives. Today, Individuals retain less than 20% of the knowledge they require to be efficient and sustainable in their jobs. The amount of knowledge required in 1990s was in the range of 70% to be effective and sustainable. Globalization is forcing companies, institutions etc to routinely redefine skills and competencies of their employees. Employees in the most of the organizations receive on-the-job training. But with the half-life of knowledge is getting shorter, sufficiency of traditional pattern training is indeed questionable. The half-life of knowledge is the amount of time that has to elapse before half of the knowledge in a particular area is superseded or shown to be untrue. The stock of human knowledge doubles every 5 years, and by 2020 it is expected to double every 73 days (Homes, A., 2002. Life Long Learning, United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing)

Most people leave their firms acquire and develop skills rather than earning higher salaries. It said in commercial sphere that replacing a competent manager costs companies 18 months manager salary.

The technology, especially IT, has wired the World that has stimulated globalization of services, manufacturing and agricultural sectors has brought about new challenges to governments, organizations and especially individuals. With the technological developments companies cut their head counts to increase profitability and competitiveness. Average employee of the many economic sectors, although he is equipped for today, is rarely equipped for tomorrow. What is more worrying is that the majority of us are not prepared for changes triggered by technological advancement taking place in the industries in many parts of the world. Preparing for the changes ahead requires us to become much more adaptable and willing to learn continuously.

Organizational Context

Within an organizational setting, learning becomes restricted to understanding the bare essentials of a particular process, system, operation and the like. The learning within such setting is job oriented and narrowly focused. An employee gets used to a set of routine tasks which are of similar in nature. An employee feels comfortable with same employer, carrying out familiar tasks and working with same people. With the revolutionary changes in existing technology and new technologies, sustainability of this type of jobs are under increasing threats. As the rate of change increases, our ability to cope with changes reduces because we are unused to learning, unlearning and relearning. Employees, who are unprepared with the phase of change, are more stressed and feel out of control and lack confidence to face future. At the same time industries demand skilled workers, workers who can face challenges and willing to learn.


The challenge, is therefore, the upgrading and transformation of our skills to maintain our employability well into the future. People with outdated knowledge and skills will find it increasingly difficult to maintain income levels and plan for enhanced income levels. People at high-end of the knowledge economy are at successful bargaining positions. People in the mid of their career are at more risk of declining prospects since most of the training and career development are planned for young people. New jobs require new skills. Government organizations are generally slow to respond to changes and thus onus rests on individuals to make sure that they are acquiring and equipped with cutting edge knowledge and skills in the respective industry.

Good news

A convincing news is that it is possible to respond to changes (which require new knowledge and skills) by developing mental adaptability of a person who naturally had during his childhood shaped by formal education. Learning, unlearning and re-learning drives people towards more economic benefits. Lifelong learning is the key to longevity within the work place and essential foundations for learning organization. People who develop the ability to continuously learn will inherit the organization of the future. In doing so they will adapt more readily to the changing environment and maintain their upward careers.

About the Author:

Ch.QS Anil Dissanayake (Membership No. 0023)
B.Sc.(QS) (Hons), M.Sc.(CPM)