Some Thoughts on the Role of Workplace Learning in Employee Engagement: Part 1 of a Series

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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 coming 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. I invite you to submit your thoughts in the comments section below. Here is part 1 of the series:

Beth Miller, CEO, Executive Velocity, an Atlanta-based talent management firm:

Training and development are a critical component that will lead to employee engagement if implemented properly. There is a huge shortage in talent and the more engaged an employee is, the less likely they will leave an organization. The importance here is to understand what the employee values from a development standpoint first. Secondly the development needs to align with the goals of the organization. From an organization’s sustainability, they need to be constantly developing their talent, it is a process not an event which means organizations need strong leadership who act as teacher, mentor, and coach. Training needs to be more engaging i.e. more entertaining, fun, and continuous. Techniques that are being used that have a lot of promise are around gamification which integrates learning and games together. The challenge for smaller companies is that this can be a very costly technique currently but there will be a time soon when the cost will decline and make it more affordable for smaller budgets. In addition to gamification, implementing the use of social networks can be effective and less costly. The idea is to crowd source training and bring like minded individuals together to share training and lessons learned. This can be done across organizations as well as within organizations depending on the sensitivity of the training needed. Technology can also be implemented as a process and not a learning event which can help in forming habits that need to be altered when managing change.

Shawn S. Talley, Director of Human Resources for NovaSom:

Training can play the major role in generating employee engagement.. Effective training programs can contribute to an improved Perception of Job Importance and prepare employee’s for potential career advancement opportunities…two critical components of engagement. Today’s Learning Management Systems are instrumental in administering a training strategy. In addition to actually administering e-learning training courses fast and easy across an employee population, LMS’s allow you to organize training materials into modules and curriculum. That curriculum can be assigned to employee’s by job title, department or any category desired. Finally, the LMS allows administrators the ability to track and even report out on training compliance. Effective training programs create a ‘What In It For Me’ benefit for employees to keep them current within their industries.

Lynda Zugec, Managing Director The Workforce Consultants. 

Training can have a tremendously beneficial impact on employee engagement. Human resource practices such as flexible work arrangements, training programs, career opportunities, and incentive compensation programs are generally considered to have a positive influence on engagement. In addition, training managers to be more supportive within the organization can be effective for improving perceptions of organizational support and the extent to which an organization cares. Research studies reveal that the availability of organizational resources (i.e., training, technology, and autonomy) increases employee engagement, which positively influences employee performance. When employees have the necessary knowledge, training and development to do their jobs, and are awarded accordingly, they are more productive.

Andy Petroski. Director of the Learning Technologies Master of Science (LTMS) program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

On how to make training more engaging: Stop focusing on content and focus on skill development/practice and context. Training experiences should be learner-centered and not trainer-centered. In addition, stop thinking of training as an event. It should be embedded into the everyday work of every employee. Training events should support ongoing training, not the other way around. Organizations should consider training as a talent management and employee engagement activity and not an HR (check the box) activity. On the role that various new technologies play in creating a well-trained and engaged workforce: -Social learning for on-demand expertise and connections; Games, simulations and virtual worlds for contextual learning and practice, practice, practice; Video and audio for on-demand learning and learner-created content; Virtual classrooms for connecting distributed learners in an interactive/collaborative environment; Embedded gaming mechanics as part of work and communication.

Marian Thier, Founder and CEO of Expanding Thought, a coaching, training, and consulting firm based in Boulder, Colorado.  

The return of employee training/development is a sign that an organization has weathered the financial storms and is once again investing in its people. That in itself engages employees because they once again feel worthy and valued. Not only will the employees feel more confident in their tenure, they’ll also expect to become more skilled. The more personal and tied to real work training is, the more employees will find it transferable, and therefore, more engaging. I’ve rarely experienced disengagement when people are provided with the opportunity to learn something they can take right back to the workplace. I find that employees like to learn about themselves, develop real skills, and are provided time and support to practice new skills until they are as comfortable as the old, no longer relevant, skills. Technologies support content. If the content is excellent, technologies help bring it alive and geared to various thinking/brain styles. If the content is weak, all the technological bells and whistles, won’t change behavior. What works: good content, reinforcement. That might seem easy, but it’s a huge challenge. Some companies are buying glitz instead of depth, and are not building in time and coaching to truly imbed the desired results.
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog