Making Company Training Programs More Engaging

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classroom boardCompany training programs are something, the mere mention of which often brings audible groans and sighs from everyone. And why shouldn’t it? In most modern environments, training is feels like just a chore for everyone, managers and employees alike. The workers don’t want to be there because they’d rather do their job they were hired for, and had enjoyed the fact that “school” was something in their past, not their present. On top of this, they sometimes have to be there on what are normally days off, and the training is way too often dull, tedious and stressful. Company training programs need to be less of a bother, and be more engaging. The thing is, they can be, if you put some thought into it. Sadly, many don’t, and just accept that they are putting a burden on everyone that is a necessary evil. Let’s see if we can’t change that attitude by showing just how easy it is to make these more engaging and less of an endurance test of the mind. To begin with, there is the challenge of setting. Traditional classrooms are often disliked, as it’s difficult in the old lecturer-student relationship to create a truly engaging and memorable experience. A properly functioning organizational learning environment allows for a more relaxed, social experience that’s more like a constructive social get together, than a tedious training session. We have an informal but task-oriented gathering of people, so let’s roll with this motif and make this as engaging as we can within reason.  Make sure the setting that is chosen is conducive to learning, and that external noise is at a minimum. In addition, the size of the space should have the trainees close together so that they can feed off each other and allow for greater group interaction.   Beyond the exact location, it’s also important to make sure the learners feel relaxed and are able to enjoy themselves.  First, social gatherings are much better with food. So, providing just a simple but nice spread of casual foods, the things found at casual parties, in good quantities is helpful to boost morale, and make the whole affair feel more like leisure with constructive dialogue than anything else. Food and beverages work well, and so do ice breakers which are the lead in for some gamification. Gamify the introduction of knowledge, gamify the study and practice through socially-minded party games (there are sites listing hundreds of gamification tips on this), and just make this feel like a fun social event. Next, it’s important to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question for the learners.  Communication is key here.  It’s critical to make a clear connection between what the training session(s) will be covering, and why and how these relate to practical on-the-job required tasks.  And not just to the task itself – explain to the employee how the knowledge you’re going to impart is valuable in the long term as well, both on a personal level for his/her professional growth and on a business level, due to the the fact that those tasks will directly contribute to business productivity and success.  In addition, don’t overwhelm employees during training sessions – make sure they are in short spurts and practical to their jobs. Be sure to try and encourage employee participation. Provide participant involvement in the training in a way that pulls people into the experience. Get their feedback and their ideas. It’s important that the content itself, as well as the employee training methods are engaging, interactive and interesting. Various techniques that have proved to be effective in the long term include using humor, telling a story through examples and narrative, and using technology. Use gamification techniques to increase engagement and generate team building. Finally, get them out of their chairs – creating a physical activity that refreshes their attention span both mentally and physically. Perhaps if we follow this casual model in the future, training won’t be synonymous with laborious, intrusive tedium in the future. Perhaps through associative influence, we can actually revive the thirst for learning in the zeitgeist of humanity, by associating the activity of learning with the social party atmosphere we already view as pleasurable. We’ll see.
Head of Corporate and Marketing Communications at WalkMe and Contributing Author to Training Station blog.