A great deal of advice for developing training programs focuses on how to get and keep people’s interest. You may have read it’s important to show graphics or videos in your presentations or to provide lots of discussion and interactive activities. But the ideas below take a broader view and look at training as a tool for getting a job done, not an unrelated assignment.
Not every problem is a training problem. Before you fall back on a workshop, make sure there’s not a way to change the business process, improve equipment, or re-arrange the environment to improve performance.
Don’t assume that everyone knows why they’re there and make sure your purpose is relevant to their jobs and lives (see tip #3).
Before designing any training, find out what people really need. That means spending time on the floor or in the field, asking people what’s working and what isn’t and finding out where they want to take their careers. If you can tell employees that training is offered in response to their requests, they’re much more likely to give it a chance.
When training makes a difference, it becomes very interesting to both employees and management. If at all possible, find a metric that you plan to improve with your program. Measure it before and after the training and for several months afterward as well.
If you can’t find a metric (or several) that the training should improve, it’s important to ask whether you should go ahead with the course. Even with soft subjects like diversity, you can use delayed employee surveys to see how the information impacts the culture (or not!).
If people go to a training course and they know their management will never refer to the training again, why pay attention to the course?
If training is important, management needs to follow up on how well it’s being applied. If it’s not associated with a measurable goal, management should ask employees to reflect on how well new skills are helping them. They also need to decide whether employees could use some mentoring to help them get the most out of new skills.
Plan for this support before training begins and have managers explain how they will follow up, so people have a reason to engage from the beginning.
Let people access resources on their own when they need to accomplish a specific goal. You can offer micro-videos or short presentations. But don’t forget that people can learn from each other.
Consider matching up learners with mentors for specific topics or to help them apply new information. With informal learning like this, it’s important to find a way to track it so you can recognize and reward the learners and mentors.
There’s nothing that says longer training is better training. Don’t shove everything you can think of into your program. Focus on what employees need to know to get a job done.
Provide resources for further reading or enrichment if some want to dive deeper. Or you can have an optional add-on session.
People can read much faster than they can talk, so using class time to simply share information is both wasteful and boring. Give people information to read/review before the meeting.
Then use class time to answer questions, discuss issues and apply the concepts in case studies or role plays. The same approach can be used for e-learning courses as well.
What about the people who assume they know the topic already and don’t do the reading? See Tip #9.
Not only does a pre-quiz help people retain more information later, it also helps them assess their current knowledge and hone in on the areas they need work on. In fact, academic studies have shown that pre-tests can improve scores on the final exam by 10%.
It’s also a nice kick in the butt for people who’re sure they know it all.
Business Management Daily advises leading by example. Even if management knows the information cold, employees should see the training is important enough for them to participate. When people see company leaders supporting your program, they’re much less likely to dismiss it.
It’s hard to take time off for training, and employees will doubly resent anything that seems useless while adding to their work load. Also remember that people have a limit to the amount of information they can absorb at once.
So consider scheduling just short sessions and spacing them out. This will lower the impact on employee’s work load while giving them time to assimilate and apply initial concepts before you pile on more information. Shorter sessions also lower the fatigue and boredom factor.
This is a great approach for regular training such as safety, compliance or diversity. The spaced sessions will not only keep people more engaged, but will also help them retain key information by repeating previous concepts.
When you have a clear goal for training, you can ask whether the traditional classroom, PowerPoint, or video is the best way to accomplish it. Maybe there are other options that would work well for your team.
If you can weave learning into the job, then you have natural engagement. Learning becomes part of the work day, not a separate task.
In fact, every project, water-cooler discussion and manager meeting can be a learning opportunity. Managers can coach soft skills; mentors can help others learn technical skills; peers can keep each other accountable for new habits.
As with more formal training, ensure that your efforts have a clear, measurable goal associated with them, and track everyone’s involvement so you can recognize progress and reward efforts.
What about humor, games, and fancy technology?
While humor, games and cool 3-D technology can attract attention to your training, it’s not necessary, and it doesn’t always ensure that people will stay engaged with the content, especially after the course.
Imagine that your refrigerator is broken, your milk is spoiling, and you need to learn how to fix it. Will you try to find a straight-forward how-to video or manual or would you prefer to play a refrigerator-fixing game?
With that said, humor, contests, and social activities will make the training experience more fun and lower resistance to training in general.
Regardless of the clever employee engagement techniques you use, don’t lose sight of the point of training. It should clearly help people do their jobs better, get rewards and recognition, or grow their careers.
Employee training that has a real purpose matters to people’s lives long after the program is over. That’s what makes it interesting.