5 top tips to boost engagement in your online training sessions

The much-talked-about ‘Great Resignation’ – a consequence of people re-evaluating their lives after the Covid-19 pandemic – has meant that companies need to be more proactive in attracting and retaining talent. With so many people needing more from their workplace than just a paycheck and choosing to live and work remotely, companies need to ensure they are providing effective e-training that will have a positive impact on the personal development of their employees. The right training can be hugely beneficial to the employee experience as well as a company’s productivity. Making sure that learners are engaged is the first step towards providing training that will make a difference.

We are all very aware of how much has changed in the world since Covid-19 came into our lives. While there were plenty of devastating impacts – many of which we are continuing to live with – some things have changed for the better. And other things have just changed. It’s fair to say that the world of work is one area where Covid has had the largest impact. And as more than half of the adult population works, and the rest of us rely in some way on those who work, it is an important area for us all.

The International Labor Organization has investigated the numbers of remote workers before and after Covid. They found that “there were approximately 260 million home-based workers in the world in 2019, amounting to 7.9% of total employment. Most home-based workers were own-account workers and lived in developing countries”. 

During the height of the pandemic, they estimate, 560 million people were working from home. Now, as we all know, many companies in developed countries that would not have previously allowed their employees to work remotely, either all the time or on a hybrid basis, have established new working practices for their employees. And this can, of course, impact levels of team engagement.

How do you keep remote workers happy and engaged?

One of the things that most employees agree on is the importance of ongoing professional development. According to recent research by LinkedIn, “94% of employees say that they would be more willing to stay in those corporations that prioritize and invest into employee career development”. 

And while this may cost a company money, not only does providing training keep employees happy, it also adds to the bottom line: a SHIFT survey found that “employees deliver $30 of increased productivity for every $1 invested in e-learning”.

So, if a company wants to keep their employees happy and invested in their jobs, they should be providing good-quality training. Many companies now have large sections of their workforce based remotely, either all or part of the time. This means that trainers often need to design and facilitate professional training sessions that can be delivered entirely online. And the trainers themselves may be exclusively providing remote training opportunities.

Why is it harder to engage people online?

We have probably all experienced frustrating online meetings or etraining sessions. It can be difficult to hold people’s attention at the best of times and if you can turn your camera off no one can see if you are paying attention – or if you are even still in the room! 

Many people use online sessions as an opportunity to multitask. Maybe they are checking work emails, taking other telephone calls, talking to other members of their family who happen to be in the room, ordering online, dealing with the cat: whatever they may be doing at the same time as ‘participating’ in a meeting or ‘listening’ to a speaker.

It is much harder to do any of these things in an in-person meeting. Can you imagine if you were in a meeting room with your team and you just got up and went to make yourself a cup of coffee while someone else was talking and you were supposed to be listening? Or got your laptop out and started answering emails or doing your online shopping while your boss is presenting? Although we might all have an odd anecdote regarding this sort of bizarre or rude behaviour during an in-person meeting, it’s unusual and would be quickly called out.

As well as having to hold people’s attention, remote training can suffer from more basic issues such as technical problems or misunderstandings: the key is to be prepared!

All training can be delivered on a remote basis

The importance of providing engaging e training is relevant to all business areas. While some subjects, sectors, or industries might naturally find training sessions require more interaction and are therefore likely to promote higher levels of engagement, it is still important to consider all the ways in which they can be improved. And while some sectors might lend themselves better to in-person delivery, the nature of work these days means that training facilitators need to adapt.

A training facilitator might be providing a workshop for a large number of learners either based remotely in various locations – potentially throughout the world – or for a small team of employees who might even be based in the same office. A company might prefer to offer online training due to cost and/or logistical reasons: KPMG found that “in some large organizations, up to 60% of total training costs are attributed solely to traveling costs”. And trainers may only work remotely, too, so even if you have an office-based team, they might be receiving online training.

It is vital that coaches and consultants who are delivering training on a remote basis know how to design and facilitate engaging, interactive sessions. Due to its nature, the online format can hamper the level of engagement that participants feel from the outset. 

It has the potential to give participants an opportunity to spend their time doing other things if they do not have a reason to pay attention. It is critical to approach online training with a focus on ways to increase engagement. This will help to ensure more positive outcomes and make the training more worthwhile for participants and the business alike.

5 tips for boosting engagement during online training

1. Welcome trainees and set expectations before the session or course starts

Get in touch with all attendees before the course starts to welcome them and let them know that you are committed to their success. Whether this is done directly or via a third party, make sure that all trainees are aware of what to expect. Do you need any information from them before the course starts? If so, send a questionnaire or email asynchronously, requesting this and explain what you need and why.

Provide any information learners will need to know about the training before it starts:

  • Is there a syllabus or list of units/modules that gives a clear overview of the course?
  • Are there clear outcomes and expectations? 
  • Will students need a notebook and pen, can they take any notes digitally or will all notes be provided
  • Is there a workbook they will need to download? 
  • Are there are any resources they should look up in advance? 
  • Is there anything else they will need to bring with them/have to hand for their remote training?

If any assignments or other methods of assessment will be set, make sure that learners know what will be expected and the time scale. If learners become unable to make a specific session due to unforeseen circumstances or technical issues, will they be able to access the training in their own time? If they need to get in touch with you, how do they do so?

Make sure you give all the information necessary to give your trainees everything they need to feel prepared: they need to know what to expect and what is expected of them in advance, so they can start the training without hassle, knowing they will be fully supported. And make sure that you have an icebreaker ready for the beginning of the session to put the everyone at ease.

2. Provide active learning strategies and collaborative tools

Active learning strategies create greater engagement than you are likely to get from simply presenting material in an instructional way. The trainer needs to be fully present and engage trainees so they are also fully present. Collaborative tools will help build a sense of teamwork – also vital within the workspace and particularly helpful for teams that are already working remotely or on a hybrid basis, where levels or interaction or engagement may already be an issue.

Setting team projects is a great way to increase engagement, and there are various ways to facilitate this. If appropriate, it can be useful to put people into groups and separate breakout rooms, where they can work together and strategize. 

Make sure they understand the task, what is expected from them, and how long they have. The fact that the trainees are part of a team means they will need to concentrate on the task at hand, interact, share ideas, and work together. The instructor can also move between rooms to offer help and advice before all the trainees return to the main ‘room’ to discuss their thoughts and progress.

Encourage trainees to feedback on their progress during the training session: they will need to be engaged on various levels to keep up with the session. They may be required to summarise their own or their team’s thoughts on what the team has just undertaken, or work with another person to put into practice some of the concepts that have been introduced.

3. Encourage critical thinking and reflection

Ensure that activities and information provided will help trainees to think critically. They need to be able to make connections between the content and course activities, and how these new skills might look in the real world

Feedback goes both ways. Encourage learners to question their thoughts and interpretations of the material they are being presented with, and make sure that, as the trainer, you allow critical thinking and reflection to be part of your teaching approach. To this end, using a digital whiteboard can be relevant.

4. Mix it up

We have discussed how different tools can be used and how engagement is likely to be lower if a training course consists of the facilitator just talking and the students just listening. 

However, it’s not as simple as just finding one alternative that works. It can be harder to concentrate on the same thing for a long period of time. If you replace speaking with a long video to watch, it’s unlikely to keep participants engaged. If the course is nothing but repeated breakout room sessions, trainees may find it hard to maintain the same level of interest. 

Make sure you have varied media – maybe you provide an introductory talk, then put trainees into breakout rooms to put into practice something they have learnt. Then you could show a video, and afterwards do a quiz so trainees know they have taken in what they need to. Keep your students’ brains moving!

5. Allow for flexibility

Don’t expect everything to always go to plan. Make sure you have a back up plan for particular situations regarding attendees, technical issues, and other elements that are beyond your control.

Do you need help to boost engagement during your online training sessions?

All companies should be providing quality training for their employees. Workplace training courses that are designed for maximum engagement will provide the greatest benefits, both to the employee and the employer. 

Make sure you are getting the most out of your online training. Here at Klaxoon we have all the tools and resources you could need to help you create engaging training content to make a difference. Why not check out our resources page for more ideas?

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