Engaging adult learners and motivating them to participate in training has always been a pain point for organizations. “In fact, studies show 13 percent of all employees are ‘highly engaged’ and 26 percent are ‘actively disengaged’ at work.”[i] Also, the average attention span of an adult is 18-20 minutes.[ii] With increasing distractions and decreasing attention spans, participation is becoming scarce.
So what methods can be used to inspire participation? Executives can make training mandatory. One would think, mandatory training would signal importance and, thus, interest. However, the reality is that “Making training mandatory will up attendance, but it is the motivation that actually allows learning to happen. Motivation is what turns an interest in a subject and a desire to get ahead into actual action.”[iii] There are multiple techniques to increase motivation and encourage participation in learners.
The first way to increase participation is to clearly lay out the course outline and objectives. Learners often want to know this before the course begins. A clear outline early on will give learners a glimpse into the topics being covered and peak their interest. Most of the time when a learner is told they have to take training, they aren’t the most enthusiastic about it. Explaining what will be covered in the course, and what the learners will get out of it will set you up for a more motivated classroom.
Another optional technique is to establish an understanding of the course participation guidelines. A great way to lay these out is to invite the learner’s input on the guidelines. Allowing them to choose the expected level of participation already begins the course with participation. Once everyone agrees and is aware of the guidelines learners will keep them in mind during the duration of the course, promoting participation when applicable.
Utilizing gamification is also a great way to get learners to participate.[iv] This is a creative way to reward those who participate. Each time a learner contributes, they get a badge or points. These add up, and once a certain defined number, is reached, they would be entered for a prize. This is a great way to foster participation and engagement with a little incentive, possible competition, and, of course, fun.
When creating training programs, always consider relevance to ensure you are working with a motivated audience. If a learner cannot relate to the topic or content, you are bound to lose their attention fast. If they cannot relate, consider the curriculum and, if possible, adjust to the group of learners. Also, consider how the training is delivered. “If you know your employees are constantly on their computers create an eLearning course, don’t hand out a book or enforce them to take a face-to-face course.”[v] Similarly, ensure the course is accessible from any device to allow the learners to take it at their convenience. Learners will appreciate the accessibility of a blended learning approach, rather than the standard, and be more excited to participate in the course.
Another more popular technique is to limit lecturing and increase interactive activity during the training. It’s well known that long lectures are the easy way to lose your audience. As stated above, attention spans are not long, and lecturing for more than 10-15 minutes will not keep your audience engaged. A great way to lay out your training is to have short spurts of information shared via a lecture format, and then insert a related team or individual activity. Activities can include time to share ideas with the classroom to increase engagement and participation.
The objective of incorporating some of these techniques into your training is to eliminate the misconception that all training is boring and unnecessary, and foster excitement about learning. Training employees is crucial to individual growth and overall company growth. “The fact remains, that training is still pretty much the best way to make workers better at their current job and possibly even to move them up to a higher position.”[vi] If that isn’t motivating enough, test out some of the above and watch your learners transform. Whether your training is in-person or online, these techniques are bound to engage your audience and enhance their learning experience.