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How to Keep Employees Engaged and Motivated During Training - HRDQ

How to Keep Employees Engaged and Motivated During Training

Training is an essential part of keeping a business growing. Your employees are the heart and soul of your company, so keeping them fresh, happy, and growing is a crucial part of business success. Training is essential for helping your employees grow and progress through their careers.

Yet training is also often considered a challenging experience for many employees. They might find it boring, or they might be forced into mandatory training for a skill they already know, or they might find it an unnecessary distraction from their job.

All of this means that training is often forced upon disengaged and unmotivated workers. How can you change that? The truth is, it's not just about the employees, but about the training as well. Here are our top tips on keeping your employees engaged and motivated throughout their training programs.

Understand Push vs. Pull Learning

Training comes in two ways: push and pull.

Push Learning is training forced upon you. The employee is told they have to complete a training module. They may get told to attend a lecture, or more likely, watch videos and work their way through "interactive" quizzes and other learning systems. Often, these are reminiscent of the more boring higher education classes and are extremely disengaging. They're viewed as obligations, misaligned with the employee's goals and desires.

Employee Training Process

Pull Learning, by contrast, is learning you reach out to take. Pull training is similar to self-guided learning; the employee is interested in a subject, and training is made available to them. They can learn according to their interests and at their own pace, for a continual improvement supported by the company.

Pull learning is, for obvious reasons, more engaging than Push learning. However, it's also less likely to be aligned with the employee's current role, duties, or career, so it may be less valuable in an immediate sense to the company.

Provide Relevant Training

Perhaps the most significant factor in how engaging training is, is how aligned it is to the job the employee is doing and their interests.

If your IT worker has to take time off of their day to take training on warehouse safety, they aren't going to be engaged with it, for a good reason.

"One of the biggest reasons employees dump a training program is because they are being asked to study something they already know. It's like making a spider attend a workshop on how to build a basic web." – Edgepoint Learning.

If that same worker has to take training about some outdated technology, or about a skill they already know, they'll be just as disengaged, even if the subject is ostensibly relevant. They already know it, after all, or know enough to know they won't need it.

Providing Relevant Training

Provide training relevant to the current work and career progression of your employees. Let them know that this training, right here, right now, will make their current jobs easier. The training itself might be a little disruptive or challenging, but the result will be worth it.

Ensure Training Doesn't Disrupt Work

Specifically, do what you can to ensure employees aren't unnecessarily burdened by the training they're forced to take.

Consider a situation where an employee gets told to attend training sessions every week for three months. This training could be highly relevant to their career, but it can also be very disruptive.

Disruptive Employee Training

They're left with three options:

  • Take the training and underperform in their role, burdening their team and potentially lining them up for a poor performance review.
  • Take the training and pull extra hours or overtime to get all of their normal task load done. This option is stressful and cuts into an appropriate work/life balance.
  • Take the training outside of regular work hours. Like the second option, this one cuts into work/life balance.

The greater the burden of training – such as attending a conference or seminar – the more significant the disruption.

Be sure to take steps to ensure that the employee doesn't need to maintain their usual workload or that their work is distributed elsewhere for the duration. If your training gets in the way of your operations, even if the result is a more robust employee, the work itself suffers.

Make Training a Career Benefit

Training should benefit your employees in some way. The most common benefit is the ability to perform their job more efficiently, faster, more accurately, or in a more effective way. However, that's not always a tangible benefit; if the employee learns to do their job faster, they'll end up having to do more work. What do they stand to gain from that?

Beneficial Career Training

Training, then, should provide benefits beyond work efficiency. It should qualify the employee for a promotion, increased compensation, flexibility in roles, or other ways. If nothing else, it should be beneficial if the employee chooses to apply for other jobs elsewhere. Fear of an employee jumping ship is not an adequate reason not to offer training; rather, you must have other reasons they stick around after receiving training.

Make Training a Company-Wide Policy

One downside to training is that it can feel unequal if isolated to an individual. If the training is rudimentary or for an expected job task, it can feel like the employee is getting singled out because they're underperforming or need further training to do their job. In other words, it feels like a punishment or as a "last resort" before disciplinary action.

Company Wide Training

Conversely, if the training is valuable and enhances career prospects, it can feel like favoritism if only offered to certain employees. Other employees might start looking for other opportunities elsewhere when passed over for that training. They feel like the chosen employee is all but given a career path while they, themselves, are passed over, no matter how unfair it is.

Use Interactive Training, Not Lectures

Learning is often hardest, least engaging, and most boring when it's a one-to-many relationship and is even worse when pre-recorded. Perhaps the worst way for an individual to learn is as part of a group getting lectured to, with no further engagement and no opportunity to ask questions or receive clarification.

Interactive Training Session

Proper training should involve engagement activities. Quizzes, feedback, questions, discussions; it's all part of what makes training more cognitively engaging and thus more effective.

"There's a quote that says, "Learning is not a spectator sport," and it speaks to what motivates workers when it comes to training. Active learning methods involve employees in the learning process by requiring them to participate in activities, make decisions, and reflect on them. There are numerous ways to motivate employees to train using active learning." - eFrontLearning.

There are many ways to make training more engaging, so explore various options and find a method that works for you.

Consider Gamification of Training Modules

Gamification is a trend that has picked up a lot of steam in recent years. Converting anything, from habit building to career training to daily chores into a game, helps engage your brain's reward center. Once those brain chemicals are generated and associated with endeavors like training, your employees will be hooked.

Gamified Training Platform

Gamification can be used for personal improvement and achievements or competitive challenges between employees.

"People are motivated by competition and, as already mentioned, rewards. By using gamification techniques during training, you will be appealing to the competitive side of employees. People like to win, so if some reward is involved during training, employees are more likely to invest in the program because they'll be motivated extrinsically (reward) and intrinsically (taking on a challenge, feeling empowered, the desire to feel capable and competent)." - Userlane.

Gamification requires using a training platform that supports some form of gamified framework, utilizing progress tracking, rewards, leaderboards, and other attributes to help keep track of progress and metrics.

Consider Using a Micro-Learning System

The next big movement in training is micro-learning. Micro-learning is training accessible in two forms: in bite-sized chunks that can be done between tasks and in just a few minutes, and in a format that can be accessed via iOS and Android devices. Having the ability to take brief training breaks in between tasks, during a break, on a commute, or in other time-limited situations can be of great benefit. They're small, they're engaging, and they're effective.

Micro Learning Training

"Many people associate micro-learning with video, which is a common and often effective form of it. Video is not, however, the only viable example of micro-learning. Other examples include self-paced e-learning, games, blogs, job aids, podcasts, infographics, and other visuals. Talent development professionals should select the type of media that is most appropriate for their specific situation and learning need." – TD.org.

Perhaps the most significant part of micro-learning is the ability to engage with training on your terms, at your own pace. It can also be layered on top of other boosts, like gamification, by doing something as simple as assigning each micro-module a point score and maintaining a leaderboard.

Ensure Training is Compensated

Training on the job – even if it's a requirement with no given hours to complete it – is something that is encompassed by the duties of the job itself. However, no one gets hired with "receive training" as a job duty; thus, it's also an extracurricular activity. Training should be compensated for maximum engagement.

After all, what better incentive is there for engagement than the promise of money?

Engaged in Training

That said, often, the money doesn't necessarily work. It can increase initial engagement but doesn't serve as an indicator or motivator for later integrating that training into practice.

Compensation is generally best used as either an incentive to do optional training or compensation for training outside of the normal work flow. As mentioned above, if training gets in the way of everyday duties, one or the other has to be pushed aside; compensating for time spent outside of work and on training is a sign of respect for your employees, if nothing else.

Monitor Training Outcomes and Iterate on Programs

No training program is perfect. Moreover, everything changes. A program that worked well with your workforce five years ago may, now, be painfully out of date. Technology, education, values, processes, and companies change.

Training isn't just about throwing education at your employees and hoping some of it sticks. Proper training is about identifying needs and opportunities and fulfilling them for your employees on a personalized and individual basis.

To properly use training, identify the desired outcomes from any given training module, and track employee performance along those outcomes. Monitor these metrics and determine whether or not the training is working.

Monitoring Training Outcomes

Additionally, it can be beneficial to simply ask for employee feedback. Ask them:

  • Did this training teach you new things, or was it stuff you already know?
  • Are you able to integrate the things you've learned in this training into your workflow?
  • Would you recommend this training to your team members or coworkers?

The feedback your employees give you will give you insight into how well the training is working and whether or not it's misaligned. We all make mistakes; executives deciding on a training program can miss the mark.

Don't be afraid to change. If a training program, framework, platform, app, or format isn't working, don't continue to pay for it and try to force your employees to get more out of it than they can. Drop it, and find something new to take its place. As an iterative process, training is an ongoing investment.

Training doesn't have to be a bad word in business, nor does it need to be narrowly focused. By using a variety of training modules like those available in our training library, you can invest in the future of your employees individually, your teams, and your company as a whole.

Do you have any questions or concerns regarding employee engagement or motivation during training? If so, please feel free to leave a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We make it a point to reply to every comment we receive and would love to help you or your company out however we possibly can!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.