The 3 fundamental keys you need to achieve learning engagement, and 3 major mistakes to never repeat again in your training program.
The most common question that I hear from corporate education heads – usually Human Resources (HR), Learning & Development (L&D), Marketing Team leads and Digital Executives – is a big one: “How do you get engagement?”
Without engagement, your eLearning program is simply not providing the value that it needs to, which is a huge missed opportunity for any business. The most challenging hurdle of all is getting employees to engage in the on-demand, self-paced environment of eLearning. Simply put, it’s not an easy task but it is very possible if you take the right steps.
1. Integration into Goals & Systems
After you have done the proper pilots and testing to establish a strong eLearning program, the next step is to align your existing company rewards and review programs (ex: 360 reviews) with eLearning use and the engagement of your employees. When they know that this training counts toward professional development goals, the motivation to engage will be built in to your system. Tie the eLearning engagement metrics with your goals and objectives.
2. Clear Management Encouragement
Engagement starts at the top. Your CEO must make it clear publicly that learning, and showing initiative to learn new skills or improve existing ones, is important to your organization. Then it must be reinforced all the way to the managerial level, where managers should be reminding their team that leveraging the learning programs they’re given is the best way to get ahead and show some initiative, and also the clearest way to communicate their own goals for growth.
This step is often overlooked but really critical for engagement. If you don’t have the buy-in from top leadership and management, then don’t expect employees to engage or invest time in your eLearning. Moreover, your management should lead by example, participating in the program themselves to show what it takes to get ahead.
3. An Obvious Outcome to Work Toward
7 times out of 10, this is the missing ingredient in eLearning programs. There is no final outcome or end-game. For us, we focus on certifications or certificates of completion, along with badges. This creates a simple system that employees can use to move forward and measure progress. The most popular of our certifications, our Digital Essentials Certificate, basically makes it clear that the recipient knows digital in a verifiable, proven way.
Structuring your eLearning program so that employees watch classes, take quizzes and ultimately test to achieve a clear result like a certification will assuredly drive engagement behavior. This is also an easy way to motivate those employees desperately searching for career-building credentials (who, like it or not, probably have aspirations beyond your company). Give them the learning opportunities and certifications they’re looking for, so you can keep them there an extra year or 5 – don’t stunt their growth on purpose or they’ll be gone.
Bonus: Make it Interesting, Fun and Gamify!
When you’ve achieved the 3 steps above (and not before), it’s time to layer on the gamification. Make learning fun, tap into competitive spirits and show micro-rewards along the way. But remember, without the 3 essentials discussed here, it will fall flat and employees may be justifiably leery since there are many pitfalls in gamification.
In short, the essence of your objective is to nail the “Flow Channel,” where you find a good place to motivate folks – a level at which they’re not too bored or too anxious about what the game within the learning drives (see chart below).
Before wrapping up, I’d like to remind folks what is really not working for eLearning engagement: The 3 “No More Please” Mistakes of Education
1. In-person training, for a half or full day. This just does nothing for your employees, since there is not a clear next step to learn more (think eLearning) for the next day and every day after. Happy motivated thoughts from training that last 24 hours are only making you feel good about yourself – there’s no long-term value.
2. License to a library of content. I can’t tell you how many times HR or management have said that they’re shocked at how little use there was when employees were offered great resources. Telling your employees that they have access to a lot of great content (and not using outcomes or objectives to motivate) simply doesn’t work.
3. Old-school education allowance. When a company offers employees a dollar amount to spend on education (webinars, going to events, joining a program, etc.) there is no way to quantify success, or motivate it.
Bonus: ‘Lunch & Learns’ have just got to go. Your in-house experts are not necessarily educators, and though you may not know it, the eyes roll around the office when you announce the next one.
The big reason we all still make the above mistakes is because we too are overworked and need to “fill the hole” or check the box for this line item. To really invest time and energy into engaging eLearning, we need to rearrange priorities in the organization, as mentioned in our last post, and look ourselves in the mirror to get our own mindshare (and our execs) in order to do this right.
And let me tell you, this alone is one reason why so many have failed in years past. A weak effort at eLearning may as well be none at all.