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How to Diversify Company-Wide Learning to Boost Engagement

Monday, June 18, 2018
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Everyone learns differently; every employee, and even every team, has a different way of digesting and retaining information. For example, the 2018 Developer Learning Survey found that within just a development team alone, the learning preferences vary. Of senior developers, 36 percent prefer learning in the format of reading, versus instructor led (22 percent) and video (22 percent). There’s a similar range of differences in preference among junior employees.

And that’s just your development team—that’s not counting the differences among your sales, marketing, and leadership employees.

For this reason, it’s critical to diversify your company-wide learning. If it’s hard for employees to grasp the concepts because they’re being taught in a way that’s difficult for them to understand, they’re likely to disengage—which is a waste of your money and their time. Use these ideas to diversify your learning and ensure that everyone is able to make the most of these growing opportunities.

Make It Interactive

One way to diversify training and encourage engagement is to bring an interactive element into the lesson. With a mix of hands-on practice, reading, or listening to a lecture, everyone has a chance to learn in the manner that’s best for them. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make learning more interactive, regardless of the topic. Here are a few ideas to try:

Live polling: Use live polling apps, like PollAnywhere, to conduct mid-lesson polls that are both interactive and helpful. For example, you might start with the following question: What are you most excited to learn about today? Employees use their phones to select an option, with results showing in real time on their phones or on a connected screen at the front of the room.

Role playing: This is an ideal interactive technique for employees who deal with customer-facing experiences. Taking turns being the employee versus the customer is a great way to practice, while experiencing both sides of the conversation and moving around.

Games: Take regular game items, like dice, and turn them into learning games in the workplace. For example, Deputy.com suggests a dice game where players see how many times they can roll a six in 30 seconds. The point? They explain: “This sales training game aims to demonstrate . . . that sales is a numbers game, and the more you participate (roll the dice) the higher your chance of getting a six (close the sale).”

Shorten Training

A full day of training may sound good in theory, but deadlines don’t just disappear and hours don’t just magically become available. After a long day of training, employees still need to make up for that lost time. Not to mention, while the jury is still out on how long the adult attention span is, it stands to reason that with so many items on your employees’ personal and professional plates, you have only a small window of time to get their attention and keep them engaged.

If you’re getting pushback on full-day training sessions, consider shorter lessons. Asha Pandey, chief learning strategist at El Design, says microlearning can be used for both formal and informal learning in the workplace. Asha explains:

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“As the name suggests, microlearning is a short, focused training. It is normally 2 to 5 minutes in run-length (normally not exceeding 7 minutes). Although it is short, it is designed to meet a specific learning outcome.” This type of learning exhibits a few specific characteristics:

● multidevice support
● rich media formats
● action oriented (wherein learners learn, practice, or apply for the job).

That means there are many ways to diversify your lessons within this format. You can use online assets, like PDFs or interactive PDFs, or videos, flipbooks, and mobile apps—or better yet, a mix. The type of training may make it harder to organize, especially when using multiple formats.

To make the experience between microlessons seamless, use a learning management tool. You can upload all the assets, create your learning path, and let employees take their time getting through each lesson on their own. You can even have group learning days versus individual learning days to keep it interesting and engaging.

Step Outside the Office

The office is convenient, but is it most conducive to learning, imagining, and innovating? Maybe not, according to management professor Kimberly Elsbach. She told NPR: “Staying inside, in the same location, is really detrimental to creative thinking. It’s also detrimental to doing that rumination that’s needed for ideas to percolate and gestate and allow a person to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment.”

Leaving this space also eliminates the stress and distractions of the office, which can quickly cause employees to disengage with what they’re learning. In this way, lessons become memorable, and therefore more effective.

Here are some tips for planning your off-site learning event from Harvard Business Review’s “How to Plan a Team Offsite That Actually Works”:

● Be clear about goals, with an agenda that “reflects and reinforces these goals.”
● Set ground rules, ensuring that everyone knows they can speak up; encourage everyone to participate in the way that feels best for them.
● Solicit anonymous suggestions for improvements during or after the training.
● Plan real-world team-building activities, like cooking.
● Build in time for processing, reflection, and follow-up.

Diversify Learning and Boost Engagement Now

Learning is critical to helping your employees build new skills and grow in their positions. However, long lectures and boring videos may not cut it; when employees are bored, they become disengaged. Not to mention, if they’re spending time away from deadlines and work, it needs to be worth everyone’s time.

Use these ideas to diversify your learning, whether you take it off-site or invest in software to create microlearning experiences. Along the way, survey employees to further home in on what keeps them engaged with and excited about learning.

About the Author
Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She's written for sites such as Lifehack, Manta, StartupNation, and Glassdoor. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.
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