Transform employees into engaged learners: discover strategies, tools, and techniques to ignite passion, enhance motivation, and foster continuous learning.
Whether in the training room or on the job, your business needs team members who continually take in new information and use it to improve their performance. Actively engaged learners are an absolute necessity in any workplace.
An organization that can nurture learning engagement will have the foundation on which to grow and compete. Their team members will be more resilient and better able to pivot with fast-paced changes.
Unfortunately, not everyone on your team is naturally an engaged learner. In order to gain the benefits of a team that embraces learning, you have to build a culture that encourages learning as a daily pursuit.
They often exhibit a willingness to:
- Interact with instructors, peers, and learning materials
- Actively seek knowledge to improve job performance
- Engage in learning outside of formal training settings
- Seek out helpful resources
- Share knowledge with others
- Recognize their knowledge gaps
- Provide meaningful feedback on course content and instructional methods
To some extent, an engaged learner is simply naturally curious. However, in the wrong work culture, it is easy to remove any motivation for active learning.
This is why it’s imperative to actively seek ways to keep trainees engaged in the learning process. Your company’s learning and development strategy must include a plan to engage learners.
How to engage adult learners: 5 key steps
What steps can a company take to improve learner engagement?
It’s important to approach all learning activities with the unique needs of adult learners in mind. This means emphasizing autonomy, efficiency, and relevance. Also, adult learners tend to prefer self-directed learning options with less guidance where possible.
Understanding participants’ needs ensure that all development is built on a foundation that benefits most adult learners. Once that is accomplished, it’s that much easier to take the following five actionable steps.
1. Focus on creating a learning culture
The process of creating engaged learners must go beyond course design and delivery. Organizations must take the steps necessary to create a learning culture where employees feel motivated and empowered to gain knowledge and develop skills.
This is absolutely foundational to increasing employee engagement in all types of training and development initiatives, including:
- Self-directed learning
- On-the-job training
- Instructor-led training
- Social learning
It’s important to create and document a formal learning and development strategy. This should be done for the company as a whole and for each employee.
Organizations that want to foster a learning culture have to hire employees who are curious and see the value in learning. These are the workers who will be engaged in training and will seek out learning opportunities. A focus on curiosity is something that should be incorporated into hiring policies and procedures.
Finally, motivation is essential. Workers should be recognized for their efforts to complete training and incorporate new skills. When they receive positive feedback for their accomplishments, employees are more motivated to repeat the success.
2. Make learning opportunities accessible
Whether they are trying to learn a new skill they need to do their jobs effectively or pursuing training related to an individual career goal, workers should never struggle to access training opportunities. Employees should be able to easily access and engage in training.
To do this, organizations must remove the friction that is often involved in the process of finding the right training. This can be accomplished by implementing a learning management system or simply using a shared calendar containing upcoming learning opportunities.
Accessibility can’t be achieved without time and resources. Workers must be given adequate time in their schedules to be able to take advantage of any training opportunities. Without it, they may not be able to achieve their goals and develop skills to do their jobs effectively.
When team members are continually denied opportunities for training because of time and budgeting issues, they aren’t likely to be engaged on the rare occasions when they are able to access training.
It’s also important to consider varying abilities and any accommodations required to ensure accessibility. This includes offering equal access to training for disabled workers and neurodivergent team members.
Finally, in order to be truly accessible, all employees must be able to benefit from the training that is offered to them. Workers will engage best with training options that best align with their learning styles. That can be accomplished by giving employees different options when it comes to training and how they engage with content. For example, sales training can be offered as an instructor-led option in a corporate training room or as a virtual training option.
3. Ensure that training meets needs
A needs-based strategy is required to create a learning initiative that is based on understanding the needs and goals of workers as well as the needs and goals of the organization. Training is then planned in a way that aligns with both.
Learning and development teams must work directly with leadership to fully understand what the organizational objectives are now and in the future. Then, training can be planned with those goals in mind.
4. Create engaging learning content
The content that you create and offer your team members will greatly influence how engaged they are. Remember that engaging learning content has a few core features:
Interactive - Participants take an active role in learning by taking part in discussions, engaging in roleplaying, and actively answering questions.
Relevant - Content and activities must tie directly to learning objectives that have been communicated clearly.
Visual - Most learners retain information better if it is introduced to them visually.
Gamified - It is possible to significantly increase learning engagement by implementing elements of gaming into training content and delivery. This includes adding progress bars to virtual training, creating leaderboards to track the completion of tasks, and allowing team members to progress through training “levels.”
Relatable - Training content is relatable when participants can directly connect it to their work and experiences. For example, if you incorporate storytelling or examples into your training materials, trainees should be able to relate to that.
Accurate - Content should be accurate and up to date in order to be credible. If training participants frequently encounter factual inaccuracies, poor editing, or other quality issues, they may become disengaged from the learning experience.
Innovative - There are many unique and innovative ways to present and consume training content. Corporate trainers are using augmented reality (AR) and VR technology, presenting mobile-friendly content, and embracing blended learning. Some corporations are even using mixed reality for training simulations to substitute or enhance hands-on training.
When training content is engaging, completion and retention rates improve significantly. Track understanding by incorporating assessments throughout training, not just at the end.
5. Develop a plan to reinforce learning
Learning shouldn’t end when a particular session is over. Organizations must implement strategies to reinforce and build on skills and knowledge gained during training.
Consider including a “what’s next?” exercise to help participants identify how they can use what they have learned in the short and long term. This encourages team members to make practical use of the training they receive. It also ensures they end training with a clear understanding of its usefulness in their jobs.
Individuals who complete training can also be recruited to work as peer trainers. They can then be given the task of presenting what they have learned and helping their coworkers incorporate the new skills and strategies.
Peer initiatives also create a significant amount of social engagement, motivation, and accountability. Training facilitators can create groups of participants who will regularly meet after a session concludes. Group members can discuss how they are implementing what they have learned and go over challenges they have encountered.
Why Your Company Benefits from Engaged Learners
Businesses benefit from taking the time to nurture and develop engaged learners. Here are just a few advantages your organization will experience:
Increase training ROI
Some organizations measure training ROI according to participation and completion rates. Unfortunately, even compulsory training tends to achieve poor outcomes without engagement. You can lose the money invested in training program development if workers aren’t engaged enough to truly absorb and use the information they receive.
If training methods can be improved to engage learners better, those outcomes improve significantly. Completion rates increase. That’s always a positive. However, it’s the boost in active learning that truly leads to results that can impact the company’s bottom line.
True ROI is determined by workers’ ability to apply what they have learned in ways that reduce errors, improve customer service, and streamline processes.
A company’s ability to engage adult learners is demonstrated in the weeks and months after training has been completed. That’s when it becomes clear whether the information gained during the learning process is actually being applied in a way that improves productivity and leads to better outcomes or not.
When participants are fully engaged during the learning process, they gain a more meaningful understanding of the material. This is demonstrated in Bloom’s Taxonomy, where more engagement can take participants from a place of understanding material to one of being able to implement it.
Especially engaged employees will complete training programs with the ability to use new information in vetting ideas, solving problems, and identifying opportunities for improvement.
More creativity and innovation
The highest level of learning engagement is demonstrated when participants can use what they have learned to create and innovate. This is something that may be demonstrated directly or indirectly.
Companies that offer engaging training will frequently see workers take the knowledge they gain and apply it in creative ways. Additionally, these training methods tend to have an inspirational effect. Employees who regularly experience training and other learning opportunities designed to keep them engaged tend to be more innovative and creative overall.
Higher retention of knowledge
When workers are provided with learning opportunities, they may not have an immediate opportunity to apply what they learned. For example, an employee may attend compliance training, but it could be months before a situation arises where those skills will be useful.
Unfortunately, without engagement, knowledge, and competencies tend to fade away quickly. With engagement, team members are more likely to be able to retain and use that knowledge when the situation calls for it.
Use the right technology to engage adult learners
Any strategies you use to turn team members into engaged learners will be more successful with the right technology. You could source and purchase an array of tools to accomplish your goals of creating and presenting engaging training content, making it accessible to your team. However, that would be expensive and time-consuming.
Instead, why not adopt a single learning management system that allows you to accomplish what you want?