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Liz Sebag-Montefiore



Read more from Liz Sebag-Montefiore

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Top tips to fully engage your learners


Every trainer encounters the reluctant student – the learner who has been told they need to attend a course or workshop and who doesn’t want to be there. Sometimes there is just an empty seat where a learner should be.

The main reason that training initiatives fail is that there is little commitment on the part of the trainee. It’s not that they don’t want to learn but is often due to worries about work building up whilst they are in training.

Stakeholders must commit to staff development and actively support time out of the office, encouraging learners to devote their energy to training, rather than trying to keep an eye on the day job.

Good training starts with design

If a training intervention is not well received, not popular with delegates, not evidenced by change at the sharp end, then the L&D department have to ask: what do they really need?

It’s simple, if a training intervention does not match needs, it won’t motivate learning, empower engagement or result in enhanced productivity.

Training linked to employees’ professional and personal objectives and that is relevant to the organisation and their job role is more likely to be seen as empowering and beneficial rather than a waste of time and energy.

Start with diagnosis of training needs, don’t tweak an existing solution, but take the time to understand the actual performance problems that need to be addressed.

Do you, in fact, need a training intervention to address the problem?

Strategies to engage

Management may be concerned about employee performance. Employees are more likely to be concerned about personal productivity and development.

A culture that encourages and facilitates continuous learning is the ideal that L&D promulgate but which few enterprises manage to achieve.

Don’t complain that learners are checking their messages but make them use their devices as part of the learning process.

L&D are tasked with the design of learning solutions that are practical and aligned with organisational goals, but they also need to be user-centred, putting people at the core of the intervention, otherwise they won’t work.

All too often we face learners ‘multitasking’ with mobile devices instead of attending the course. They are often busy checking messages and worrying about the work they are not doing and what’s happening back at base.

Work with what you have

Work with this - learners want to use mobile devices, so integrate technology and social media into the training intervention.

Learners are comfortable working this way so engage with tech-savvy learners on their own terms.

Use eLearning before training – send out required reading or set a quiz/survey to evaluate the existing knowledge of learners. Make contact with learners, check-in with them and encourage early engagement with trainer and course materials.

Incorporating eLearning as part of a blended approach remains a great way to create a fruitful learning experience that doesn’t require getting everyone into the same room. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – be creative.

Return fire

In other words, don’t complain that learners are checking their messages but make them use their devices as part of the learning process.

Investigate the preferred social media platforms used by people within the organisation and try to exploit these.

Work with those learners who display positive attitudes, as they become stakeholders in the process and encourage colleagues to participate and engage.

For instance, create groups within LinkedIn for teams or specific courses, so learners can chat before the course.

Use social media posts to share links to relevant research and resources. Create Twitter hashtags to follow and comment on - this is particularly successful at conferences and ‘open’ courses, but also for internal courses with a little creativity.

Make it mobile friendly

Use technology integrated into training sessions, eLearning has been superseded by mLearning, facilitated by mobile devices.

This is how learners operate in real life - they rarely put their devices down, so use them in the classroom.

Here are some things to consider when making it mobile friendly:

  • Focus on creating content optimised for mobile distribution - learners are far more likely to refer to it afterwards if it can be found easily and accessed via mobiles.
  • Harness social media to facilitate learning goals and as a hub for dialogue between learners and trainer.
  • Use online poll questions during training, share results with the group.
  • Have learners access smartphones and tablets to make connections with course material, by tagging items in course materials so users can follow up on social media and other sources during and after the course.
  • Online forums for learners work best when learners are engaged with the material and are especially useful when follow up learning is scheduled.
  • Photographs taken during a course can work well to raise awareness - a good photo of an engaged and interactive training session on the corporate LinkedIn page, or Instagram, showcases an employer committed to L&D.

Share and enjoy

Trainers know role-play is an invaluable tool, but learners tend to be resistant, and getting trainees to participate and collaborate can be difficult.

Call it something else, not ‘role-play’, but emphasise practical simulated scenario work and situational problem solving.

Employees committed to learning show a higher level of job satisfaction that has a positive effect on performance.

Often learners are reluctant to share and collaborate if they perceive the environment as competitive.

Work with those learners who display positive attitudes, as they become stakeholders in the process and encourage colleagues to participate and engage.

Learners don’t like being observed and judged, they resist even training that is tailored to their needs because they fear criticism and failure. Too often learners view training as ‘remedial’ rather than empowering.

Safe sharing

Good trainers will reassure learners that they provide a safe space to learn, with no judgment or criticism at a personal level in a learning situation that has boundaries and is designed to help them grow and thrive.

A collaborative learner mindset is encouraged with the use of exercises that are directly relevant to working life including group exercises, shared case studies and exercises which can be extended beyond the classroom with the use of tools such as online forums, materials and learning tools.

Continuous improvement

Going the extra mile to ensure employees are engaged with effective and ongoing training and development opportunities will afford positive effects on employee attitude and proficiency, creating empowered advocates and stakeholders who will constitute a robust workforce for success in a volatile and uncertain world.

Employees committed to learning show a higher level of job satisfaction that has a positive effect on performance.

Good L&D practice puts learners first because learning aligned for career growth is what works for employees - personal motivation is engaged when they see enhanced career potential.

Interested in this topic? Read Learner engagement: why any corporate learning has to have the learner at its centre.

Author Profile Picture
Liz Sebag-Montefiore


Read more from Liz Sebag-Montefiore

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