I recently searched for Engaging Learners on TrainingZone and over 700 results came up. It was at that point that I almost decided there and then that I would not write this blog, as surely I could have nothing at all to add. And if I were to write about how to engage the learners once I had secured them, then indeed I doubt there would be much I could add to my peers’ advice.
However, more and more lately I have been confused and confounded about our whole attitude to learning. Why is it that a child in India or China values their education above everything else, and many children in the UK, throw theirs away, finding no meaning or value to it?
How come I meet fantastic organisations every day that have brilliant learning and development solutions, that really are engaging and really do make a difference, but the learners that they are designed for are apathetic at best, and downright contemptuous at worst?
Sadly this attitude prevails even when they have absolutely no knowledge of what is available. It is an assumption, a given, as far as they are concerned.
I know this is not the case everywhere, so I have been trying to find out what the difference is that makes the difference, and it seems to me to be five key things:
- “What’s in it for me?” - If there is no reason for people to change, even if they could do the job better, but no one is holding them to account, then why should they even look for learning? Many performance management systems are expecting people to perform to a standard. That is their aspiration for everyone, not to excel, not to do better, but to meet a standard – why don’t we want people to improve by 10 or 20% year on year, so the standard gets higher and higher?
- Peer pressure – we have all succumbed at some point or another to peer pressure. Maybe it was when you were young and involved you in doing something risky that you might not have otherwise done, but even now, if you value someone else’s opinion, it can and does influence your own. Those organisations who engage their learners do this really well, they encourage learners to share their experiences, and to urge colleagues to take advantage of what’s on offer. They do this simply by asking learners to recommend to a colleague any L&D that found particularly valuable.
- Link to career pathways and talent programmes – when people can see a direct link from ‘if I learn this it will help me achieve that’, they are more inclined to want to consume the learning. Those organisations that not only have those links but who clearly communicate it do not usually have as much difficultly engaging their learners.
- Storytelling – storytelling is having a bit of a renaissance, and that is because there can be no denying the impact a great story can have. What are your organisations learning stories? Are they positive? Do they demonstrate the value the learning has brought the individuals, teams and the organisations, or are they cynical and talking of time wasting? Or, perhaps worse, are there no stories at all? As any good PR person will tell you, PR is a job to do. Start collecting and sharing stories as often as you can, spread them like good gossip. Use social media (internally like Yammer!), your company magazine or intranet, or get past delegates to provide lunch and learn sessions to other parts of the business where they personally share their learning stories. Take a look at my recent blog on embracing your inner marketer for more inspiration.
- Deliver fantastic solutions - always deliver solutions that people will talk about for years to come, ones that actually make a difference to how they do their job, so they feel better about what they are achieving and recognise the link between how the learning instigated that change. Change that is so visible other people say “I want whatever it is that they have had!”
Are you struggling to engage your learners? Get in touch now to look at how you can transform your learning culture into a pull learning environment.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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