A study by CompTIA found 58 percent of employees saying professional development contributes to their job satisfaction, and that percentage grew even higher for millennial and Generation X employees.
A Future of Work study by PWC (a global professional services networks) found 35 percent of millennial employees reported “good training and development programs” were the most desirable qualities in a workplace.
Still, even with excellent programs and rich content in place, companies struggle to get employees actually engaged in training. New employees see training as a set of “hoops” to jump through before the real work begins, while more experienced employees easily become bored or complacent.
So how do you get them engaged with your company’s training program?
There is no secret recipe to make your employees love your training program any more than there is a way to get them to love reading or exercising. But, like reading or exercising, training is something you can get your employees to actively pursue once they understand the value of doing it often.
To that end, you should:
Make the content relevant.
Make sure that time is set aside to demonstrate how the information learned through the program actually makes a difference to their work (or their lives). For example, will a safety compliance program make them less likely to fall victim to an on-the-job accident? Will soft skills training make them eligible for future management positions? The more your employees can understand the benefits to them, the more effort they will expend on the training.
Make learning “safe.”
Learning is risky. It exposes the learner’s ignorance and can feel threatening to one’s ego. Make a learning environment where people feel free to ask questions and own up to their mistakes.
When it comes to topics and opportunities, mix it up.
The perception is most training is compliance-oriented, dull, and emphasizes knowledge which should already be common sense. Fight that perception by mixing in other kinds of training: Professional development, skills acquisition, communication styles, team building, and so on. Provide a number of training resources so employees can access them on an ongoing basis, as this makes training seem more like an employment perk and less like an annual grind.
Start where they are, but expect more.
Every instructor should lead training with a teacher mentality. This means recognizing and accepting what learners know when they step into the classroom. If they know little, go slowly at first and introduce important key concepts slowly. If they are more experienced, speed up the pace so you can move on to more interesting topics. If your group is mixed, consider breaking into smaller groups or sessions to accommodate different levels. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn something new, and you should set the expectation early on that they will do it.
Set aside time to follow up.
Following up after training has several benefits. First, it gives employees another chance to review what they have learned, which makes it more likely they’ll remember key parts of that training (indeed, most training does not stick unless a plan for following up is in place). Second, follow-up sessions are a great opportunity to ask employees how they will apply their training, and how they’ll set goals. This holds them accountable for what they have learned. Finally, follow-up sessions allow you to keep lines of communication open-- for example, you can offer assistance and get feedback on the program itself.
Build a learning culture.
All of the above tips do more than just improve your training; they are the first steps towards building a true learning culture. Fostering a learning culture in your organization has many known benefits and can show a substantial ROI. This happens because employees are motivated to learn and improve at all times—and they feel supported by the organization. To read more about the benefits of a learning culture, and tips for building one, download our whitepaper “10 Benefits of a True Learning Culture.”
Again, there is no secret recipe to get your employees excited about training, but the more they see value in the content, and the more they feel you are invested in them, the more engaged they will become over time.