Some Thoughts on the Role of Workplace Learning in Employee Engagement – Part 2 of a Series

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Much has been written about the importance of keeping employees engaged and motivated.  Yet what role does training play in that?

I asked that question recently on an internet forum, and got a wide variety of responses.  Over the course of a few weeks, the blog will post a series of articles on the topic.   We’ll look at the thoughts of a diverse group of people who have been in contact with us recently, contributing their views on the role workplace learning strategies and tactics in creating a more engaged workforce.  We’ll also look at how to make training more engaging, as well as the part new technologies can play in creating a well-trained and engaged workforce.

To read the first article in this series, click here

I invite you to submit your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here is part 2 of the series:

Liz Carey, Co-Founder of Emerge, a New York City area leadership and team development firm. 

The most promising way to keep employees engaged with their work, is to offer them opportunities to grow as people. Most organizational training is centered solely on giving employees more tools to do their jobs better, which is very important, yet most training is missing the important element of growing the person themselves. What better tool is there to do my job better? Traditional workshop training, online learning programs, or even access to personal development initiatives inside and outside the organization gives the employee the message, “they care about me as a person.” If an organization isn’t finding a way to express this most critical message to its people, on a consistent basis, then engagement just simply won’t happen, no matter what you do.

Gary Hinkle, Principal Management Consultant at Auxilium, which helps engineering and technical professionals develop their leadership and management potential.

Educated employees who work for companies that provide little or no training opportunity know that other companies do, and that affects engagement. Employees who don’t get training opportunities are not only limited in their knowledge – “they don’t know what they don’t know” – which holds many employees back from advancing.

On the role new technology can play in creating a well-trained and engaged workforce:

Facilitated social media sharing is a good way to direct online content appropriately. In addition, let’s remember that  time and attention span are a huge factor. Quick snippets of on-demand information is becoming more and more useful.

Jo Mangum, Board Certified Business Coach, Jamm Coaching.

On the role of training in employee engagement:

Yes, training provides skills but in the bigger picture training provides self-efficacy. To fully engage with their work a person must feel competent. There’s a famous quote which is attributed to Caesar. It says, “For lack of training, they lacked knowledge. For lack of knowledge, they lacked skill, For lack of skill, they lacked confidence. And for lack of confidence they lacked victory”. This really sums it up.

On the role new technology can play in creating a well-trained and engaged workforce:

Certainly there are a variety of new delivery systems that allow us to learn without leaving our chairs. But I will also include in new technologies the studies that are being completed regarding how our brain works and teaching people the skill of managing their motivation. Should companies train that? 

Teri Lindeberg, CEO, Staffwell Russia (Executive Search/Recruitment)

Companywide engagement training is a myth. We cannot train our employees to be more engaged, either the feedback and responsibility they receive makes them feel valued, or not. Instead, spend your engagement dollars training two groups; managers, and those involved in the hiring process.

The quality of an employee’s relationship with their direct superior is the greatest indicator of their level of engagement. Train managers to provide personalized feedback, faster. Stale and generalized accolades, think Employee of the Month awards, do a good thing poorly. 

Similarly, over-hiring is one of the surest ways to stifle engagement. Instead train to hire for potential or aspirational candidates, for those whom the JD is just beyond their current level of experience. Employees feel most valued when all their skills are on display, so a job description that underutilizes their abilities will lead to disengagement. 

Ultimately, improving employee engagement boils down to making engagement a pillar of company culture. One of the easiest and most effective ways to let your staff know the new way forward is with a CEO blog. Be honest and resist the urge to delegate the writing. After all, engagement is a two-way street and if employees can tell management thinks it’s a waste of time, it probably is. 

Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of Executive Development Associates, and an author and speaker on issues relating to leadership, teambuilding, communication, conflict, and behavior:

On the importance and role of training in employee engagement: 

While [training and development] is necessary for the continued learning for the business, it is now crucial if you want to attract the best available talent. Employees want to be developed and if they are not they will feel undervalued and look for opportunities to go where companies will invest in their development. Leaders must not only using training to develop the workforce they must also communicate effectively that it is available, that the company is spending time and money for their development and encourage the workforce to jump in and learn all that they can. 

On making training more engaging: 

The more non-academic and relevant the training is, the more engaging it will be to the participants. Some training best practices include making training interactive, peer coaching, using real and current scenarios in the training to utilize the tools being trained. It helps if the training is directly tied to the strategy of the company and that the connection is explained to the participants.

On the role new technology can play in creating a well-trained and engaged workforce:

Technology is an exciting piece of learning and development today. Now we can engage the workforce through interactive learning that includes powerful interactive simulations. Business simulations have been around for a long time, but the really good ones were so expensive that few could afford them. With the current technologies, we are able to create affordable tools to include in the classroom that adds exponentially to the learning.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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