Adult Learning and What it Means for Companies

Thea Bohn -unless-
Posted by THEA BOHN

Many companies know that they can only be as successful as their teams and the people who make them up – and, as the pandemic rages on around the world, that has become clearer than ever before. Although we’ve all done our best to adapt to a new way of doing business through remote work and increased digitalization, what people are lacking now is a real sense of human connection in work and business. 

As employees continue under these unusual circumstances, the ever-increasing external pressures take a toll. With the scope of our life shrinking in some areas, we all need to find ways to stay  engaged and fulfilled in work and at home. Though there can be different answers for each individual, it’s clear that businesses can play a role here by building fulfilling and nourishing cultures that emphasize human connection.

Going into 2021, one of the best ways for businesses to accomplish this is to invest in adult learning and support their employees’ development – in particular, through language learning programs.

What is adult learning?

Before considering why companies should shift their development resources into adult learning programs, it helps to ask what adult learning is exactly. According to researcher Malcolm Knowles, who put forth a pivotal theory on the subject in 1968, adult learning or andragogy is the study of how adults can approach lifelong learning in ways that differ from children and animals (who have up to now been the focus of most studies on education).

As his theory points out, learning doesn’t just stop at a particular age, where our character and mental attributes become fixed. Instead, we can pursue a fulfilling life of learning into and throughout adulthood. Though, it requires five key conditions. The first is that our self-concept shifts from dependence to independence, and we become self-directed learners. After that, we must both draw on our life experiences and have developed a readiness to learn from them. Finally, we must be oriented towards practical skills we can actually use and have a concrete motivation to pursue continued learning, whether internal or external.

Why should companies care about adult learning?

For companies, promoting adult learning can reinvigorate and transform the workforce, particularly in times of crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic. Applying Knowles’ theory, companies can use flexible and individualized approaches to offer adult learning to their employees and see great results. In addition to improving employees’ skills, engaging team members in learning programs can help deliver meaning and connection at a time when it’s easy to feel disengaged and disconnected. 

Though the skills each company needs will differ, one skill that solves many problems at once is language learning, which Babbel for Business has perfected through its suite of flexible and effective products. As technology proliferates and the job market gets more competitive – during the pandemic and beyond – older employees and team members run the risk of falling behind or losing opportunities to advance. Fortunately, Babbel’s evidence-based, digital language learning programs provide a way to keep these employees motivated, engaged and learning – all while increasing retention and protecting the dynamics of already-proven teams.

As research from a team of MIT scientists shows, the concept that language learning must be “capped” at a certain age is fundamentally untrue – in fact, their results show that adults may actually be better at language learning in many key ways. With this in mind, companies that build curious and inclusive cultures that encourage language learning are bound to see a slew of benefits.

 From the bottom up, it provides employees cultural enrichment and new opportunities in work and travel. The boost in enthusiasm and insight this offers can benefit team dynamics, both internally and in communication with customers. Finally, key employees will be more engaged at work and in alignment with a company that promoting a supportive culture, leading to lower HR costs and better retention.

Woman learning on her own with a laptop and piece of paper

Using Babbel for Business for successful adult learning

Though it’s clear that lifelong learning can be enriching for employees and beneficial for companies, it’s also important that the learning methods used are flexible and proven – and this is where Babbel for Business has a critical advantage. As just one example, a study conducted with linguists at Yale University showed 100% of participants – 75% of whom were over the age of 40 –had measurably improved their Spanish proficiency in three months of using Babbel. Additional studies by linguists at Michigan State University and The City University of New York have also supported these findings, proving that Babbel’s technology is effective and can deliver results for both individuals and companies. 

Each of Babbel’s language learning programs has intuitive interfaces and can be used at various scales. For individual learners, there’s Babbel Professional, which gives access to all interactive online language courses and emphasizes self-directed learning. For companies looking to take self-motivated learning into a group context, Babbel Live is a good option, providing certified language teachers and live group video lessons. Finally, for individual employees seeking a one-on-one learning experience, Babbel Intensive offers language learning through one-on-one live video lessons with intensive support. For a full comparison of each product’s features, see Babbel’s Product Comparison to decide which one may be right for your needs.

Adult and lifelong learning programs are the future for companies

As digitalization increases, new opportunities have emerged to look at how we do business. Though technology has the power to make remote collaboration possible, it’s important for us to find ways to still feel connected and engaged. It’s clear that we need new processes and cultures that help connect us to ourselves, to our work, and to one another. As it turns out, language learning programs could be the solution to all three. 

Babbel for Business strives to promote cultures of connection and innovation among individuals and teams and, by doing so, benefit the companies behind them. As part of that mission, Babbel gladly supports businesses to empower their employees, young and old, to find meaning, connection and growth at work, in spite of today’s challenges, through engaging in lifelong learning. 


Language Learning Culture

Interested in learning more? Download our free e-book on setting up a sustainable language learning culture here.




Sr. Content Marketing Manager B2B

Raised bilingually, Thea is invested in intercultural communication. She sees language learning at the intersection of individual education and globalisation.

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