The Only 8 Tips You’ll Ever Need for Engaging Learners Effectively At Work (Yes, Really)

The Only 8 Tips You’ll Ever Need For Engaging Learners Effectively At Work


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Engaged workers are 21% more profitable, 41% less likely to take sick days and 59 times more likely to stay in a job than a dissatisfied worker. Getting them to be and stay engaged in their work starts with engaging them in employee training—but engagement is easily lusted after and stubbornly hard to attain.

Let’s break it down. What are the parts that equate to a sum total of learner engagement? It’s a triple threat of mind, body and soul, so to speak:

In layman’s terms, the keys to engagement are participation, appeal and investment. But if engaging learners is essentially about changing attitudes and perceptions, how does one effectively engage learners across the board?

Top 8 most effective tips for engaging learners

Designing a training program that purposely utilises each or a combination of each form of engagement is your best bet to ensuring learners aren’t checking out. After all, your learning and development initiatives should be aiming to spark behavioural, emotional and cognitive changes that create more adaptable, resilient and innovative employees.

Without much further ado, here are our top 8 tips for effectively engaging your learners.

1. Assign meaning

Learners must see value in a task or they won’t engage. That value is determined against the time and effort they’ll need to expend to complete that task or activity. One way to imbue meaning is to connect a task with previous coursework, experiences or even their own aspirations. This creates a personal and relevant connection between learner and learning material, and how its value can extend to real life application.

Engagement check

Behavioural & emotional

2. Give them autonomy

People like the idea of controlling their own destinies, and this cliché can be ascribed to learning, too. The learning management system is part and parcel of many employee training programs, and a benefit of utilising a learning tool is that it allows instructors to loosen the reigns and encourages self-motivation. When the act of learning itself is promoted over complying with direction through an ‘anytime, anywhere’ approach, you’ll likely see engagement levels rise.

Engagement check

Behavioural, emotional & cognitive

3. Make it convenient

This may seem strange in this new, remote-working world—but learning doesn’t stop at eLearning. The aim of employee training is to change behaviours and develop new skills that address gaps within an organisation, so it’s important to ensure your learners can cognitively translate what they learnt on screen into the real world. This may take the form of mentorships, job shadowing or even on-the-job assessment, but whatever the face-to-face medium, it boosts coherence and strengthens collaboration within teams.

Engagement check

Behavioural, emotional & cognitive

4. Encourage collaboration

Social learning is a teaching theory in which learners affirm and validate knowledge amongst one another, specifically by internalising what they see others doing in order to replicate it. An intrinsic facet of social learning is that it reinforces new behaviours, thereby motivating learners to utilise newly learned skills. Collaborative training activities such as groupwork or forums further create an emotional experience that develops relevant soft skills, such as:

Engagement check

Behavioural, emotional & cognitive

5. Give them problems to solve

This is really just a wordy way of saying stimulate them. It’s been proven that solving authentic, relatable problems leads learners to self-directed inquiry, appraisal and reflection. This in turn builds new and creative ways of thinking that can be translated to problems in their day-to-day work. Bonus points for presenting it in an equally interesting way such as short, sharp videos, scenario-based training and time-sensitive quizzes. This way, not only are they actively learning and problem-solving, but they’re thinking on their feet—much like they may have to for their job responsibilities.

Engagement check

Behavioural & cognitive

6. Make it a competition

If all else fails, healthy competition can spark a light in the most unmotivated of students. Some people are naturally inclined to compete for a ‘higher’ grade than others, while others simply respond to the entertaining elements of gamification. Points that identify progress on a scale, badges to recognise achievement and leaderboards to inject a little race-style competition encourage a few key behavioural changes: Ownership, social influence, anticipation and empowerment. Learning becomes an unpredictable game to see who will ‘win’ (aka reach certain learning milestones first).

Engagement check

Behavioural & emotional

7. Cater to schedules

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: nobody learns exactly the same, especially not a large number of adults in one organisation with differing schedules, workloads and personal priorities. It’s your responsibility to show them why your training should fit into their lives. Platforms such as a cloud-based LMS allow them to access learning at any time, on any device, and from wherever they choose—so they don’t have to factor it into their workday. Plus, the more you meet them on their turf, the more you’ll invite them to view training is their choice, not a requirement.

Engagement check

Behavioural & cognitive

8. Cater to needs

On the other side of the coin is what your people need to get out of their training. Personalising their coursework so it’s not broad-reaching and generic (and wholly uninviting) shows you’re invested in their individual personal and career development. Though this should align with any capability gaps you’ve identified in your workforce, it’s a chance to engage learners with a tangible goal to strive for (say, a promotion they need their new skills to be eligible for).

Engagement check

Emotional & cognitive

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