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Agata Nowakowska


Area Vice President

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Four ways to drive learner engagement in a world of unknowns

Four key approaches that ensure learning is relevant and engaging for employees, no matter where or when they are learning.

The past 12 months have been a rollercoaster of a ride for organisations and their employees. As the debate continues around which pandemic-driven changes are set to persist once the current health crisis resolves, many believe that where work-related activities are concerned, the remote working genie is now well and truly out of the bottle. Indeed, a Gartner survey has revealed that 74% of firms plan to shift to remote work after the Covid-19 crisis ends.

The permanent shift to a pure or hybrid distributed workforce model has significant implications for L&D leaders tasked with future-proofing training delivery and ensuring successful learning outcomes for all.

Aside from the challenge of keeping cost and complexity under control, how can firms unleash a digital learning environment that is both engaging and capable of delivering sustainable outcomes in a world full of variables and unknowns?

The key to resolving this conundrum is simple. Engaging people effectively in today’s uncertain environment depends upon adopting some key approaches that ensure learning is relevant to, and resonates with, learners.

1. Connect learning plans to each learner’s short and long-term career goals

While personal growth was historically the number one motivation for learning, today’s employees identify delivering results in their current role as their top motivation, followed closely by preparing for their next role within the organisation.

This change in motivational behaviour highlights how today’s learners are working hard to deliver business results and influence outcomes. Plus, they expect to have more control over self-directing their own learning. That said, acquiring new expertise can be difficult if you don’t know how to take yourself from one level to the next. 

Providing sequenced learning paths that build on current skills sets, while guiding learners through essential learning towards specific goals is proving to be a highly effective strategy for engaging learners.

The key takeaway from all this is that developing a clear connection for employees between what they are learning, and their current or future job role, is a sure fire way to motivate them to dedicate time and attention to their development. After which, it will be key to ensure they can easily find the assets that help them drive results quickly, and more importantly, apply what they are learning to their daily work.

Today’s time-pressed learners want to optimise every training moment.

2. Offer meaningful, portable recognition for individual accomplishments

In the past, learners who completed training programmes displayed framed certificates of achievement. More recently, digital badges have risen in prominence as a method to motivate and engage learners. Portable, shareable and verifiable, today’s digital badges can be posted on social media and resumes. 

Providing employees with a digital history of skills and learning that travels with them throughout their career, their popularity with learners is on the up.

Empowering learners to cultivate their personal brand and showcase their expertise to colleagues, peers, managers and social media networks, digital badging adds real perceived value to professional development. Representing a permanent credential that sits on their personal profile, digital badges deliver the transparency and verification that learners need to validate their learning achievements – and the motivation to keep credentials current.

3. Enable learners to spend more time honing their skills, and less time searching for content

Today’s time-pressed learners want to optimise every training moment. To achieve this goal, they need a clear starting point plus guidance on where to go next to achieve their aims.

In much the same way that Amazon provides personalised recommendations, today’s learners will expect to encounter curated suggestions that will power their continuous learning journey, based on their interests, previous learning activities and the learning activities of peers.

Learners need to be able to address their needs in the moment, and today’s AI-powered learning platforms can help make it fast and easy to quickly find the right content and resources. A first time manager, for example, who wants to explore best practices on how to lead an effective virtual team, can use such platforms to immediately acquire and apply the knowledge to the task in hand.

Solutions that automate curation for each employee not only benefit learners, they also release managers and administrators to dedicate their time elsewhere.

To prepare for whatever the future holds, organisations are striving to democratise learning.

4. Meet learners wherever they are

Prior to the pandemic, Josh Bersin had already identified how engaging learning experiences were evolving to deliver just-in-time help and support that incorporated learning ‘in the flow of work’ for employees – enabling employees to learn anywhere, anytime and from any device. 

The realities of today’s post-pandemic world mean that employees are under more pressure than ever to manage their professional and personal responsibilities simultaneously. With many offices still closed, the learning window has vanished for many. This means the pressure is on to meet learners wherever they are with AI-driven recommendations, mobile experiences and learning which is embedded within their workflow.

In other words, on-the-job learning that provides opportunities to ‘learn by doing’ is fast becoming the way to ensure new skills and knowledge can be effectively assimilated by employees. This embedded learning approach has been sure to drive significant improvements in the performance of individuals, compared to other formal training approaches, since learners have a deeper understanding of the context that relates to learning – and are more highly motivated to acquire skills that have deep relevance to aiding their performance.

Final thoughts

The upside of the new normal is that L&D organisations have been re-evaluating the impact of remote working and putting the learner at the centre of learning. To prepare for whatever the future holds, organisations are striving to democratise learning, while making it easier for learners to identify and consume the learning they need on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately, firms that want to leverage the skills and the talents of their workforce will need to make learning engaging, relevant and easy to consume in a meaningful way. Serving up on-demand learning recommendations that reflect the in-the-moment business-critical needs of learners in a positive, productive and high value way will ultimately support business success.

Interested in this topic? Read 'Increasing engagement with online learning'.

Author Profile Picture
Agata Nowakowska

Area Vice President

Read more from Agata Nowakowska

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