Some Thoughts on the Role of Workplace Learning in Employee Engagement: Part 3 of a Series

conference roomMuch 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 two articles in this series, click here

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

Here is part 3 of the series:

Nick Gidwani, Founder of the site SkilledUp.com, a leading source for online training.   

Training is becoming a differentiator to working for large vs. small organizations. Large companies are offering LMS solutions and training to employees, while smaller organizations have a tough time competing. As a result, employees of large employers are accelerating their professional growth and creating a skills gap against those who are not getting these opportunities. In a fast changing business culture, learning how to use tools well is a major differentiator, and employees recognize (and value) this. It can help your recruitment but better than that — an employee who knows they are growing professionally is less likely to leave. 

In many ways, the content required to learn how to use the online and software-based tools required for knowledge-based workforce are already online. Used well, there is a major opportunity to accelerate the growth of your employees, while also providing an incentive that they value that can make them more productive. It’s rare to find such a win-win, but this is an area where the return is immense for a small investment.

David Zahn, President, ZAHN Consulting, a consultancy firm focused on organizational design, employee development, training, competency enhancement and behavioral change.

On the importance and role of training in employee engagement.

Training allows the employer to demonstrate commitment to the employee by providing opportunities to be trained. In response, the employee recognizes the employer’s efforts by rewarding it with higher loyalty and affiliation with the company. Committed employees will work harder individually and collectively to ensure the success of the firm. Rather than focusing on self-interest and using rules, policies, and procedures as a weapon against the company, highly engaged employees will feel that they have a role in the success and will seek ways of performing that contribute to future succeed.

On how do we make training more engaging:

Using skills, case studies, role plays, examples, etc. that are directly recognizable and relevant to the employee is one key for improving engagement. Additionally, allowing trainees (employees) to practice the skills, applying the learning, making it interactive, providing feedback and guidance (mentorship), offering reinforcement and acknowledgement of efforts, will all go a long way to improving training engagement.

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

By allowing employees to participate in remote training (not requiring classroom attendance), self-paced technologies, opportunities to share experiences with others through electronic groups, and the ability to review demonstrations/examples via video, audio, or other technology means all enhance the ability of training to further engage the workforce. 

Sandra Faleris, CEO, MyBizGlobal, including MyBizTips, a blog on business tips and news.  

There are as many types of employees as there are people, but the best hiring practice is to employ people who are personally committed to excellence. Bar none, this is one guideline that, if followed, is tried and true. That is to assume the company’s environment and leadership are constantly demonstrating the same commitment to excellence. If not, it will be difficult if not impossible to keep employees who strive to be outstanding.

Do unto your employees as you would have them do unto your customers. Treat them like the part of the business they are and they will respond by being just that; the people who make it happen, each and every day.

Some tips for a building a strong and engaged team include keep each employee stimulated by constantly giving them something new; acknowledge when do things well; rewarding high performance; and creating a sense of pride in the workplace; and allowing for maximum creativity and productivity for employees.

Taylor Aldredge, Ambassador of Buzz, Grasshopper

It seems that the best training programs are circumstantial to the company and what’s being taught. However, it’s a combination of leveraging facilitator led instruction and group events to drive education forward.

Think about the strengths of your company. If you’re a high growth company, taking a lot of time for training may be tough. Integrating group discussions into the day-to-day responsibilities can help in pushing that employee engagement.

Walter G. Meyer, who teaches business communications and productivity for ITEC in San Diego. He is the author of the book Going for the Green: selling in the 21st Century.

Part of the improvement that employers see after any training is clearly the Hawthorne Effect, the classic study in which a researcher found that no matter what he did to the lighting in a manufacturing plant, productivity went up. People work harder when they think their employer is paying attention and cares about how they are doing. Providing training and development programs to employees will increase their engagement and productivity, to a certain degree regardless of the quality of the program. But clearly those with real, substantive content will reap even greater benefits. 

There are ways of making the training both more engaging and the results more long-lasting by making the training fun – I am a big proponent of gamification – how do you make the learning a game? And by giving “homework.” Make sure the participants stay engaged by having things to work every day until the next class session. Our lives are so busy these days that a lot can be lost in a week if there are not daily reinforcers.

Lastly, is the issue of technology. Numerous studies have shown that the best way to remember something and learn it is to write it down–not type it into your electronic device, but to actually use old-fashioned pen and paper. Unfortunately, in our modern world, no one is going to do that. Recently I was at a university and saw a poster for a recently past program that was to get students to actually keep a day planner and write down their appointments and goals. I was surprised to see this free course being offered, given how antiquated that seems to most young people, in spite of the benefits. I asked the student activities coordinator how the program went and she said, “It didn’t. Not a single student showed up.” So as beneficial as writing may be to learning, it won’t help learning if no one does it, or even wants to hear about it. I make sure that whatever I am teaching is adaptable to the way people really live today – on their iPads and smart phones. Regardless of the memo system or calendar you use, it is important to have a system you will use; it’s no good if no one uses it.


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