7 Deadly Strategies for Increasing Learner Engagement

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, companies in the top quartile for employee engagement improved productivity by 21%, profitability by 22% and customer satisfaction by 10%. They also reported significant reduction in staff turnover.

Let’s look at some characteristics of an engaged, learning workforce.

What do Engaged Learners Look Like?

Engaged learners are typically:

  • Well motivated and embarking on learning without prompting
  • Involved in the design of the learning experience
  • Confident using learning systems and technologies
  • Confident in managing self-development
  • Selecting tasks at the border of their competence
  • Identifying how to apply their new knowledge/skills in the work context
  • Approaching new learning with curiosity, interest and enthusiasm
  • Happy to share and pass on their knowledge

An Engaged L&D Team:

  • Provides the resources and choices to support the alignment of learning to business and strategic goals of the organisation
  • Maintains excellent communication at all levels (with learners, trainers, line managers and senior executives)
  • Maintains a seamless end-to-end tech-enabled process, flowing from recruitment into programmes, to completion, then supporting application in the workplace
  • Minimises the barriers of technology, attitude, capability and capacity
  • Lifts the lid on learning, enabling people to learn from each other
  • Provides relevant, exciting content and resources to support learning and application
  • Nails the change-management process when a new programme is launched

Of course, these points define the ‘dream team’ specifications of what an engaged workforce looks like, but in reality, L&D teams are sometimes at a loss as to why learners aren’t engaging with their content and applying it in the workplace. That’s why Towards Maturity have come up with these 7 strategies to help you build staff engagement.

1. Understand learners
In order to engage staff in learning, we need to understand their needs and preferences, and what motivates them. Today’s learners are aware of requirements and expect more choice. L&D professionals need to design learning strategies that truly engage and support their needs.

(For some great insights into what learners expect, check out The Learner Voice: Part 1.[1] Most of the stats you’ll see here are taken from the responses of over 2,000 learners.)

2. Make inspiring, relevant and accessible content
Collaboration with your target audience is by far the best way to create relevant content and make sure it reaches the right people. Involve them from the start. Engagement can be enhanced further by encouraging users and managers to add to wikis, develop their own blogs, record videos about good practice and discuss what they have found most useful.

3. Equip stakeholders with the right resources
Top learning companies are more than twice as likely to equip line managers with resources so that their teams get the most out of technology-enabled learning (46% vs. 17% on average).
Work colleagues and team members are more likely to be overlooked as stakeholders, but their influence and potential to provide support goes way beyond any formal arrangements for coaching and mentoring in the workplace.

4. Support learning in the workflow
65% of learners are motivated by using technologies that allow them to network and learn with/from others. Are you supporting this?
Defined performance-support practices help to support learning transfer after formal training. Top learning companies establish a robust technology infrastructure to make the sharing of knowledge simpler, rather than adding complexity or stress to an already over-stretched workforce.

5. Minimise the barriers that can lead to poor engagement
Getting the technology, support, communications and the rewards in place, then establishing a learning culture where the technology is an enabler rather than a distracter, all help to minimise the risk of resource-intensive learning programmes not meeting goals. Seamless experiences lead to seamless learning.

6. Develop a strategy for winning hearts and minds
All levels of the organisation need to believe in and support a tech-enabled learning strategy, in order for it to be successful. Senior managers are critical in promoting a learning culture, but their reluctance to engage with technology can restrict innovation. The top learning companies are working closely with managers to build commitment and trust, unlock talent and fulfil potential.

“If the top do not champion learning, the middle will not see it as a priority for the bottom.”
– Director, Private sector, UK

7. Celebrate success
60% of top learning companies regularly communicate learning success to senior management. They also keep higher-tier staff in the loop and publicise the achievements of learners.
Are you celebrating the success of your learners? Are you promoting the benefits that your engagers can testify to? Make sure you attain and circulate positive feedback, and don’t be afraid to celebrate your success as an L&D leader, no matter how small.

Working Harder, Smarter, Faster

When all these things work together, you get great results. Some of the benefits that companies reported in Building Staff Engagement include:

• Reduced time to competence
• Faster response to changing business conditions
• Engagement from new types of learners
• Improved staff motivation and retention
• Increased adaptability of the programme to the individual’s need
• Improved learning content quality
• Increased ongoing sharing of good practice
• Faster, improved application of learning in the workplace
• Better support for organisational change
• Increased productivity

If you’re interested, you can find out how well engaged your learners already are with the Towards Maturity Benchmark. It’s free for CLC Members, and you receive a lot of benefits from doing it.
For the full report on Building Staff Engagement, head over to our website and download it. It’s free, so what’s stopping you?

www.towardsmaturity.org/building-engagement2014

Levi Phillips is the latest member of staff at Towards Maturity; a community-interest non-profit company that promotes good practice of learning in the workplace through extensive research under the sponsorship of learning companies around the globe. Levi is working to increase the reach of Towards Maturity’s influence through marketing strategies and enjoys collaborating with others to reach new heights.

[1] The Learner Voice: Part 1 (Towards Maturity, 2014), http://towardsmaturity.org/article/2014/04/09/towards-maturity-learner-voice-part-1/.