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Getting People Engaged in Learning

Les Strachan 

April 17, 2014

Green-Light_jokerproproduction_188Imagine that you’ve invested part of your L&D budget on a year’s access to an online learning library.

Initially, after a big launch, people are excited that they have access to such an extensive resource.

However, after several months, only a handful of learners are accessing the library regularly. Most people have only logged in once or twice, and some have become so tied up in their routine work that they’ve forgotten that this great resource exists.

As an L&D professional, you’ll know how important it is to get people engaged in their development, if you want to avoid situations like this. But, doing this is easier said than done, especially when learning is self-directed.

In this post, we’ll explore some ways that you can get employees excited and engaged in their learning. Let us know your experiences of this by commenting below.

Identify Barriers to Engagement

First, it’s important to identify the barriers that can prevent people from getting engaged in their development.

Time is often a major factor – if people are busy, they will likely prioritize more urgent work over developing their skills.

Lack of information is another barrier – people won’t get excited about learning if they don’t know what resources are available, or if they don’t know how learning new skills will benefit them.

It’s vital that your L&D team comes up with a plan that addresses obstacles like these.

Develop a Targeted Communications Plan

You need to view getting learner buy-in as a necessity, not a luxury. It’s simply too costly not to “sell” learning interventions to your people, especially when you’re investing a lot in training resources.

This means that you need to work closely with your internal communications team – and use your own marketing skills – to come up with a communications strategy to promote your learning program.

As part of this, consider using the concept of market segmentation to understand and address the needs of the different groups of people in your organization.

Also, measure the success of your communications, and optimize your messages to maximize their impact.

Above all, keep learning at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Use social media and other online communication channels like email and your organization’s intranet to promote new resources, and to highlight people’s successes.

Don’t forget about more traditional media, too – regularly distribute posters, leaflets, and brochures in places where people congregate, as a reminder of what’s available.

Involve Employees in Developing Learning Programs

Employees will be more engaged in their learning program when they have a say in how it is set up.

Create steering committees that include people from various departments and levels in the organization.

Also, encourage employees to feed back on their experiences. Listen to what they say, and then do something about this.

Get Support From Leaders

Employees are less likely to engage with their learning if senior managers and executives don’t show support for the organization’s learning program.

Therefore, you must make sure that you get buy-in and support from the leadership team.

Encourage them to lead by example. For instance, executives could blog about their own training experiences, and managers could share what they’ve learned in team briefings.

Get Help From Learning Providers

If you use external learning services, remember that your providers can also give advice on getting people engaged in their services.

Ask your provider for advice on what has worked well in the other organizations that they’ve served. They’ll likely have case studies that they can draw on, and they may be able to provide supporting resources such as draft communication plans, example email sequences, competency frameworks, and marketing materials.

Connect Learning With Work Objectives and Life Goals

To get buy-in, it’s important to communicate how specific learning interventions will help employees achieve their work objectives and personal goals.

First, encourage managers to use tools such as Management by Objectives to align their people’s goals with the organization’s objectives. Ask them to set team members’ specific learning and development goals as part of this. This helps to make learning a part of people’s regular work, which they can prioritize appropriately.

Also, encourage managers to ask their team members about their personal goals, so that they can highlight how using available learning resources will help them achieve these.

Finally, ask managers to reward people appropriately, when they reach their learning objectives.

What problems do you have with learner engagement in your organization? What strategies have worked for you?

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One comment on “Getting People Engaged in Learning”:

  1. michael wrote:

    Hi, in one company situation I was very successful in engaging my team by introducing a learn and share to the monthly staff meeting. Myself and my 5 reports all had to spend 1-3 minutes sharing something new that we had learned that week. It started with work related examples but soon they were challenging themselves to bring in new outside skills and it was very rewarding for everyone. I was very happy with my subscription to mindtools as an unlimited supply of opportunities. cheers Michael