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How to give your employees the training they want

This guest blog post is by Dan Streeter, founder of IMPART! Learning Solutions. It has been edited, but you can find the original blog post here. You can follow him on LinkedIn.

We’ve adopted new technologies, structured our work days differently and changed the way we define and measure success. So, why are so many companies still running training the way they always have?

The world is new, and it’s changing rapidly. You want your employees to be evolving too — and the quickest way to keep pace with change is to build thoughtful, adaptive employee education into the very fabric of your company.

But, all this training will only work if you have employee buy-in. If your employees are unconvinced of the value of a training, bored by its contents or distracted by pressing work, they won’t learn much, no matter how fantastic your training is.

Here’s how to give your employees the training they want.

Give them autonomy in what they learn and how they learn it. 

Think about the last project you were passionate about. Even if you didn’t conceive of it from end to end, you likely had some degree of say over its direction and outcomes.

Autonomy and buy-in go hand-in-hand. When you feel as though an initiative belongs to you in some way, you’re more likely to be invested in its success. According to the Harvard Business Review, autonomy may be the single most important element for creating engagement in a company.

To get engagement from your employees on learning initiatives, start by asking them what they want. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get excited about a training initiative and forget to gather the input of the most important people involved: the students.

To keep your team front and center of any learning initiative, encourage open discussions about learning and development.

Make their education relevant to their goals and challenges.

Chances are your employees have their futures on their minds, especially when it comes to maintaining relevant skills. In fact, many employees list skill atrophy as one of their primary concerns.

So, before launching a training, take the time to articulate how it ties to the bigger picture. One great way to do this is to tie learning objectives to the specific business goals, team challenges or professional development.

An example:

Learning objective: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages.

Improved learning objective, tied to business goals: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages to increase quarterly appointments scheduled.

Anticipate and remove stumbling blocks.

Great leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they remove obstacles preventing their team from finding the answers themselves. Though your employees may know what they want, they may not have insight into what’s standing in their way of achieving it.

To be skilled at developing your team, pay close attention to how your employees learn and what impedes their success.

For example, if you have an employee who is often overshadowed by larger personalities, you may consider offering optional one-on-one tutorials or e-learning modules to supplement group learning.

If you know you have employees who struggle to listen before offering feedback or solutions, embed periods of silent individual reflection in your training before resuming a group discussion.

Tap into their emotions.

When the world is moving a mile-a-millisecond, it becomes harder and harder to get and keep your employees’ attention. So, even when you have their buy-in, your trainings need to be engaging, fun and memorable to cut through all the noise.

Cat videos hold our attention because they generate feelings of happiness. A picture of a friend who lives far away holds our attention because it generates feelings of love. So — you guessed it — to get their attention, create a high-emotion learning experience.

Both positive and negative emotions can increase engagement and attention. 

Make it interactive.

Another way to be heard above the din is to make the learning experience interactive. In many industries, employees spend a lot of time at their desks, in front of computers or on their smartphones. Shake things up a bit!

  • Ask questions instead of solely giving answers.
  • Include group breakout discussions.
  • Plan for hands-on activities and demonstrations that allow employees to learn through doing.
  • Include IRL assignments within eLearning modules, such as making a new connection with someone at a remote office, live group brainstorms or hands-on tool use.
  • Create a game or competition to incentivize learning.
  • Implement microlearning opportunities throughout the workday.

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