From a sociological point of view, staff training sessions can be rather amusing. Amusing, because of how quickly grown adults, in an educational setting, revert to all the dynamics of the school classroom. You have the super keen ones sat at the front answering all the questions, the besties at the back that see it as an opportunity to compare memes on their phones for a couple of hours, the disengaged ones who spend the whole time with their heads on their desks questioning the point of it all, the one who inevitably doesn’t show and latterly offers some flimsy excuse why. OK, it might not be that blatant, but most managers will concur that getting all staff fully engaged in training sessions is no simple task. It is with this in mind that we have put together a little guide as to how you can keep your employees logged on and tuned in.
Link the training to career advancement
Most workers have dreams bigger than doing the same job for the rest of their working lives. However, many of them are often unclear as to how to make the crucial next steps of progression. This can lead to feelings of disillusionment and ultimately disengagement – neither of which does your business any good at all.
Framing courses then as something which attendance and completion of, is more than just a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, and instead a process of enrichment that paves the way to greater career options, will raise a few eyebrows. Make it clear that the thrust of the training is professional development as a means of career advancement. This also has the effect of demonstrating to employees that you respect their goals and are doing what you can to help them achieve them. There are few things more motivating than working for a company that is seen to be genuinely supporting their staff in reaching their potential.
A way to take this one step further, is to involve staff in the type of training you provide. Ask them what areas of the business they feel they need the most development, and how they would like the training to be delivered. The more they are involved in the process, the more enthused they will be about it.
Getting the session planning right
Speak to anyone who works in education and ask them what makes for a great learning experience, and most of them will give you the same answer; thorough lesson planning.
A poorly organised session with irrelevant content completely undermines the quality of the program. For the session to have optimum impact, time needs to be set aside to plan what content will be included, in what order, in what format, what methods of assessment will be used, and at what point during the week it will be presented. If, for example, you have a younger workforce who rely heavily on ICT, giving them a photocopied booklet to read on a Friday afternoon is next to useless.
If your workforce is mobile, getting them all to come to HQ to complete a course is also impractical. It overly impacts on productivity, not to mention environmentally unfriendly. By using Cloud technologies, employees can access eLearning programs remotely from any device.
Make it reciprocal
If training sessions are put together by a small number of managers, deciding what employees need to learn and how, then not only do they run the risk of presenting a session that is of little interest to employees, but they also miss an opportunity to engage all levels of the workforce in something that ultimately benefits everyone. Giving employees the chance to have input into the planning of their own training makes them feel that their opinions really matter, and they will appreciate the level of effort and care that has gone into it.
Don’t see completion of courses as being the end of the process either. Continue to communicate with your staff. What did they like about the session? What didn’t they like? What suggestions and criticisms do they have? By constantly endeavouring to provide sessions your staff really want, the more they engage.
As touched upon earlier, linking training sessions to career progression is a great way to motivate staff, but it doesn’t hurt to offer something a little more immediate. Offering gift cards, cash prizes and/or certificates for high scores, or meal tickets and cinema vouchers for completed courses are all powerful motivators.
Powerful as these motivators are, it is important to always remind employees of the bigger picture, and regularly reinforce the link between training and career advancement.
Relevance and Urgency
Linking training to career progression and offering rewards for successful course completion are powerful ways to ensure that employees take part and engage, but there’s something else they need for the course to really become something they want to take part in: they need to know how it’s going to make their job easier, and make them better at it.
Training staff on a new piece of software that drastically cuts down manual data input, or an alternative filing system that allows customer information to be retrieved more quickly, provides a relevance and immediate reward that little else can match. For an added tonic, it is always compelling for staff to hear from a third party on how the training has made their job easier. If an employee has already been through the training, ask them to talk to staff prior to the training about the ways in which their duties are now executed more efficiently.
There’s a famous episode in Ricky Gervais’ hit comedy The Office where the staff of the fictional Wernham Hogg have taken a day out of their schedule to sit in a circle and watch videos and be lectured to by a well-meaning but dull training provider. As well as being excruciatingly funny, the episode also brilliantly depicts an out-dated and ineffective method of training:
The dynamic between company and workforce has changed. It’s no longer a continuation of the top-down, teacher/pupil dynamic borrowed from schools. Employees expect a certain level of immediacy when needing information and they prefer the autonomy of being able to organise their training around their work, rather than having it thrust upon them.
By organising training programs that can be accessed at any time from any location, employees can choose the most convenient times for them to begin and end sessions. This improves levels of engagement and removes the possibility of training being missed due to absence.
A more flexible approach also acts to empower employees. By allowing them to choose when training is completed, they are given further ownership of a crucial part of their career.
For a business to flourish, it needs to adapt to the changing nature and needs of the contemporary workforce. This means involving them at all stages, rewarding them, giving them ownership of their training, and deploying software that facilitates interactive, flexible, and relevant content. eLearning platforms are a great tool to meet the training needs of employees, but it’s not just about the deployment of the software in isolation, it’s about the culture towards training that’s built up around it that makes it truly effective.