I met an extremely talented L&D professional at a recent conference. She was really chatty and proud to explain the ways her organisation encouraged flexible and social learning, including how they were preparing to integrate VR into their learning’s blend. Impressed, I asked her what learners thought of their solutions and she explained that despite getting great feedback about the programme itself, attendance and engagement was actually quite disappointing. It’s a story I’ve heard a number of times, so how can L&D professionals get people more engaged with their fantastic learning solutions?
Whilst it’s always worth asking whether the learning delivery methods or content could be improved, that isn’t usually the problem: More frequently, learners simply don’t engage because of other business pressures. It’s a problem that can seem insurmountable, but I believe L&D professionals actually have hidden allies in the business who can really help boost learner engagement.
Getting managers on board can be the key to transforming the way people think about learning. After all, managers see their people every day and are, in many cases, role models. So, how can L&D transform managers into learner engagement allies?
Hook the learner
Just like young children, most of us have a tendency to ask ‘why?’ when we’re asked to do something that we don’t fancy. Whilst most L&D professionals understand the importance of learning, managers spend much greater time with learners and can help you address the specific reason behind the ‘why?’.
It is the manager who can clearly see the link between the learning and the performance improvement, but the real beauty is that managers also know their people. They can tailor the hook to each person and use this to engage them on a whole new level.
Asking yourself “how can we help the manager do that?” is key and focus groups are a great way to find the answer. Critically, these groups actually slow the manager down enough to consider the learning’s purpose and identify the different methods which managers can use to hook their teams into engaging. After all it is a win-win for managers! The more their people improve, the easier it will be for the team to meet their targets.
Explain the benefits
Managers with good intentions, but who struggle to hook their people into engaging with L&D, is one thing. It is much more dangerous when managers actively oppose learning due to false objections, such as lack of time, meaning that a negative attitude could also infect their teams. Ask yourself, would you persist in attending a learning event when your manager suggested it was a waste of time? I don’t think so.
Obviously, you need to get managers on your side, and the key is getting back to basics. That means using all of your persuasive skills to convince the manager by showcasing the learning’s benefits and linking this directly to their team’s performance and targets. Accepting that engaging learners is part of a new L&D horizon is at the crux of my recent free whitepaper, and as L&D professionals I firmly believe that we need to embrace the new job of marketer: by gathering information and demonstrating to managers how learning improves their team in the long-run, you create enthusiastic champions of learning in the workplace.
I love finding innovative ways to boost learner engagement, but I know how hard it can be to see things from the businesses perspective at times. By comparison, managers have their fingers on the pulse and know what makes their team tick, so asking them what they need to actively engage learners seems a good start. Quite often it not the quality of the solution that deters manager and learner alike, but more practical things, like who will look after their customers when learners are out of the workplace.
Equally, when learners don’t engage, it’s bound to be discussed in the workplace. Encourage managers to interact with this feedback and really understand why. Your next learning solution will be improved by understanding their situation and learning from their feedback about what ‘turned off’ learners this time! If you have been following my marketing process in the whitepaper, you will know this information is like gold dust.
When managers are active and engaged in the learning process, the amount of power they have over present and future learner engagement is fairly incredible. L&D professionals therefore need to roll up their sleeves and proactively include managers in the engagement process as quickly as possible! We’ve seen that managers are valuable contributors at every stage of the learning journey, from hooking the learner, through overcoming dissent, to giving informative feedback. As a result, L&D have to reach out to managers, their engagement allies.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
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