Are You Learning for Survival, Benefits, or Growth?

We start learning as soon as we are born. We learn to talk, walk, express, and interact. As we are growing up, we learn to ride, swim, drive, and so on. In the early part of our life, the family guides us on what to learn and what not to learn.
As we grow older, we make our own decisions on what to learn, what not to learn, and how much to learn. If we understand what we should be learning and the process of learning, we will be successful in our lives.

There are three things about the learning process.
1. Learning is a progressive process.
2. Learning is a continuous process.
3. Learning is a hierarchical process.

Learning is a progressive process because to accomplish something, we have to go through a few sequential and/or parallel steps. To ride a bicycle, first we need to learn how to balance on two wheels; next, we learn to pedal, maintain speed, and use brakes to avoid a crash, and so on. Learning is a progressive process.

Learning is a continuous process because the environment surrounding us is constantly changing. We have to learn new ways to accomplish the same old tasks or learn new tasks that will become part of our lives. We used to communicate by mailing handwritten letters, typewritten letters, letters composed on a word processor. Now, we use email. We used to stay in touch with family and friends with mail and telephone. Now, we use social networking and texting to stay in touch with them. Learning is a continuous process.

Learning is a hierarchical process because individuals make the decision on whether to climb the hierarchy of learning, that is, to learn to survive, benefit, or grow. The decision is the result of the individual motivation to learn or relearn. The following is an exhibit of the hierarchy of learning.

The decision to learn for survival, benefits, or growth depends on the individual’s motivation in the workplace. The success at each step depends on individual’s ability to recognize the learning needs, and capability to learn or relearn. The hierarchy of learning exists in both the personal life and the professional life.

Individual Motivation Leads to a Learning Hierarchy
Danny, Jerry, and Suzy, high school friends when they turned 16, started working part time for a local retail store chain bagging merchandise and helping customers. All of them were motivated to work for the company because the company paid above the minimum wage and had a policy of promoting within the company. After graduating from high school, all of them decided to stay with the retail chain company to explore career opportunities.

Danny had two years experience with front-end service-bagging merchandise and helping customers. He decided to apply for a full-time, front-end service position at the store and got hired by the company. He was motivated to work as a front-end service person, had the ability to recognize what he needed to learn for the position, and was capable of delivering customer service. He settled down with a full-time position as a front-end service person.

While he was working part-time at the front-end service, Jerry networked with the stock clerks and the warehouse department manager because he was motivated by the advancement opportunities in the warehouse department, and the difference in salaries and bonuses. He learned about what he needed to learn to be a stock clerk, and prepared himself for the stock clerk position. He applied for that position and got hired by the company in the warehouse department.

Suzy was interested in the retail store business and learned about the management opportunities. She decided to continue working as a part-time employee as a customer service representative. She applied for the part-time customer service representative position, and got hired by the company. Suzy decided to work part time so she could attend the local college and get her bachelor’s degree in business administration, and explore management opportunities at the company.

The three young individuals made decisions on where they would be on the level of learning hierarchy based on individual motivation, abilities, and capabilities. After four years with the company, Danny is still happily working as a front-end service person. Jerry has become an assistance manger for the warehouse department and has received several pay raises. Suzy graduated with her bachelor’s degree and was hired as the retail store manager. This is an example of how individual motivation leads to a learning hierarchy, and the success depends on individual’s ability to recognize the learning needs and the capabilities of the individual.

In the knowledge-based economy, individual self-motivation is not enough to create value for the company. Management has to motivate employees, identify the learning needs, and work on the abilities and capabilities required for generating personal growth of the employees.

A company with employees with a higher-level learning hierarchy will be more competitive in the marketplace than a company with employees a lower-level learning hierarchy.

© 2014 Mohammed R. Ahmed
Ahmed, M.R. (2014). Are You Learning for Survival, Benefits, or Growth?
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