Why engagement is key for your training sessions’ effectiveness
Engagement has become a bit of a buzzword when referring to work, training and education. And it has become so for a good reason. With engagement, experts tell us, comes increased focus and attention. It aids learning and retention and motivates critical thinking. And, as an employer, if you are providing skills training – which you should be - you want to make sure your employees are getting the most out of it. They will grow and develop on a personal level, which is good for them individually and is also relevant to the wellbeing of your company as a whole.
Let’s imagine a common workplace scenario. You’re on a training course that your employer has either recommended or required you undertake. Maybe you are not as invested and interested as you could be. Or maybe you are super excited for it and can’t wait to learn all those new things so you can put them into practice in your career. Either way, you are doing the training to improve your professional skills. You stand to benefit from it, and so does your employer.
Imagine the trainer stands in front of the class (either figuratively or literally) and talks for the entirety of the time. You’re expected to follow along and take notes. If you are lucky there may be time for questions at the end, but if there is anything you do not understand you cannot stop the trainer and ask for clarification.
You do not have the opportunity to get to know your fellow participants on a professional or personal level during the class or interact with the trainer. When the training is finished, you might then need to apply any abstract principles you have been taught to real situations going forward. And in this context, it may not always be simple to ascertain when these apply in real life.
Alternatively, let’s imagine a training situation where the facilitator actively encourages the group’s participation. A space where questions can be asked, and ideas and theories developed. Where trainees might feel a sense of belonging to a team and could work together with others towards a common goal. Maybe different types of media are introduced, and participants can learn by doing, or perhaps they can get a sense of how certain situations might play out in the real world with role play, for example.
Even without looking at the research, based on these examples it is likely that most people would expect to get more out of a course where they are not just being lectured to. It’s likely you would understand, learn, and remember more from a training course that utilizes at least some of the engaging methods described in the second scenario. You would expect to feel more of a sense of engagement with the subject matter, the trainer, and the other participants in the latter context.
What is engagement?
If we look at engagement in the workplace on the most basic level, studies have shown that employees who feel connected, positive, and enthusiastic about their job and the company they are working for are more productive and perform their responsibilities better.
A good employee experience translates into increased company revenue: a study undertaken over 11 years found that companies with engaged employees increased their revenue by around 4 times as much as those that didn’t. It seems that having employees who feel engaged at work is vital for a company to thrive.
Engagement in a training setting has similar positive impacts. Learners who are engaged – interested, committed, and keen to learn – will get more out of any course they are doing, both at the time and afterwards. And they will be more likely to understand, use, and share the knowledge they have received going forward. Their training is therefore worth more to them and to their company.
Workplace engagement and learning opportunities go hand in hand
What is particularly interesting is that engagement at work can be enhanced by offering engaging learning opportunities. This is even more vital in these post-Covid times. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report found that the pandemic had negatively impacted engagement at work. Currently, only 21% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work. This does not bode well. And Gallup’s American Upskilling Study found that “upskilling is becoming a sought-after employee benefit and powerful attraction tool for employers”. This is good news for companies that are ready and willing to invest in their employees.
Employee learning and development opportunities are vital for businesses that wish to attract and retain talent. But if the training you are offering fails to engage your employees, you will be wasting money and opportunities.
With 80% of employees agreeing that learning new skills in the workplace would make them feel more engaged, offering good-quality training opportunities is a win-win situation. But this only helps if it’s done correctly: no longer do learners expect to sit and listen to an instructor drone on. Course facilitators need to use all the tools they have at their disposal to increase opportunities for learner engagement and thereby improve learner outcomes.
New challenges for training coaches and facilitators
The workplace has changed immeasurably since the Covid pandemic and so have training requirements. Prior to the pandemic, skills training tended to take place in person, either in workshops or seminars at the employee’s place of work, or in an external location such as a hotel or conference center that employees might have had to travel to.
With the pandemic accelerating the move to remote working and to the online delivery of many things that were previously only perceived as possible in person, trainers and facilitators, coaches and consultants have found it necessary to adapt.
Training sessions may now only exist as online courses or only in-person. Alternatively, they may need to be developed for a hybrid delivery. Groups may be large or small, local or worldwide. Training needs to be able to adapt to and reflect both the subject and the audience.
The one thing that has not changed with the pandemic is the importance of having fully engaged participants. Giving learners the means and opportunities to express themselves, learn, and collaborate is vital for increased retention and personal development. And, as we know, this converts into a better employee experience.
What is effective skills training in the workplace?
Skills training often used to be a box-ticking exercise, for both the company offering it and the employees undertaking it. Employees were not necessarily invested in the outcome: they often signed up for a course or a workshop because they were expected to, or a certain pay grade required it. Maybe everyone being promoted to a certain level had to take a specific class, regardless of their educational or professional background.
Turning up to the training and receiving a certificate at the end – often after completing an examination on the topics covered – used to be enough for the employee and employer alike to be satisfied they had fulfilled their duty. How much the employee retained and the value the employer or employee received from someone completing the training was often obscure or minimal.
Learning and education theories have evolved
The educational process itself has evolved at pace. For years it was a one-way process of a teacher lecturing a class while learners took notes. Questions were discouraged and learning by rote was the main way children (and by extension, adults) learnt. The retention of facts and examination passes were the outcomes that educators and employers were looking for. And students were collecting certificates this way.
This now old-fashioned method of imparting knowledge turned out to be less than ideal. It does not suit all types of learners, nor does it encourage participation, self-reflection, or critical thinking. It would often lead to disengagement and feelings of alienation. Maybe you had this type of education as a child or have received this style of skills training from an employer in the past. If so, it is likely that the benefits to you and the employer are long forgotten!
Interactive sessions and collaborative tools increase engagement
These days, employee training is more likely to involve interactive sessions and collaborative tools. Facilitators are mindful of individual trainee’s learning styles and learning paths are reflecting this most of the time. When greater levels of interaction are required from learners, they need to pay more attention to what is going on. In turn this means they are more likely to retain the information they are being given and it will make learning quicker and easier.
So, making sure that your training sessions are engaging is the first step to a more positive outcome for your workplace-skills training. And, as we have already noted, not only does greater engagement lead to better learning outcomes, skills training is a ‘perk’ employees are looking for that benefits the company too.
How can trainers increase engagement during workplace training sessions?
Researchers have spent many years looking at the ways in which people learn and retain information. There are several approaches to increasing engagement and some things will work better in certain situations. Training facilitators should be able to tailor their offerings to their audience.
The subject, audience, class size, and so on, will all have some impact on levels of engagement and how you can best approach maximizing it. Quality training providers will create content that is relevant to the learners and the medium being used.
For example, if they are delivering a course online they can use a digital whiteboard: some approaches can be shared through different media formats, and training facilitators can use all the relevant tools available to them. They can also allow learners the right amount of interactivity to create the best possible results.
Using a trainee-centered approach rather than a teacher-centered one will reap dividends. The more engaged the class is as a whole, the more successful the group is likely to be in achieving the course’s learning objectives. Learners who collaborate and share information and ideas, and work together will be more invested in the outcome of the training.
These days trainers need to be flexible and training opportunities should allow participants to express what they need to, using the right tools for the circumstances. Employee training and education tools are designed to help training facilitators with interactive or interesting methods to help increase engagement. Learning how to create and facilitate workshops that are properly engaging for the people involved is the first step.
Are you offering effective, engaging training sessions?
Do you have a properly structured, tried-and-tested system to ensure that your workplace training courses are designed for maximum engagement? Any company can provide training for its employees. But not every company will be getting the most out of their training. Here at Klaxoon we have all the tools and resources you could need to help you create engaging course content that will make a difference.