More than half of learning & development professionals described increasing “engagement” as their top challenge in 2019. With new social distancing norms and remote working, 94% of learning & development professionals have needed to change their strategy — and only a quarter of them have found that shift easy. So what is the secret to learner engagement?
Finding answers to engagement is critical. 2020 may have disrupted learning programmes, but it’s made having a learning and development strategy more important than ever. To respond to rapid change in modern business, you need an effective way to upskill your employees, and develop creative solutions to new challenges.
Fundamentally, engaged learners retain more information. They’re also more likely to participate (or “engage”) in your learning programme. An engaging learning programme can help you reduce turnover, improve business outcomes, and increase productivity.
The secret to effective learner engagement has three parts:
- Make learning fun
- Make learning easy
- Make learning relevant
If it feels like the dreaded “click next” e-learning course we have all rushed through, you’ve done something wrong. Here, we are going to look at how to unlock these secrets to learner engagement in more detail. Let’s get started and let’s get learning!
Learner Engagement Secret #1: Humour helps with learning
Humour is central to making learning fun. Within limits, your ability to combine learning with comedy will improve engagement and create a more effective and memorable learning experience.
For instance, why is it that we can all recite lines from our favourite sitcoms? Funny events and conversations evoke positive and pleasant feelings, even if a new series of Friends is looking increasingly unlikely…
According to multiple studies, humour activates the brain’s dopamine reward system. In turn, this stimulates long-term memory and goal-oriented motivation in your employees. The results of effective use of humour can include:
- Improved learner participation
- Increased interest and attention
- Enhanced workplace relationships
Without promising anything, it may even draw a smirk from Dave in IT… And if Dave is smirking, that means he’s paying attention. Imagine this scenario:
- You’re being instructed on how to use the office coffee machine. The demonstrator misses an important step and spills coffee grounds all over themselves and the floor.
Are you ever going to forget that step yourself?
Beyond anecdotes, positive humour has been shown to be far more effective than negative or aggressive humour at stimulating a dopamine response. Humour needs to be appropriate and effectively targeted. Keep three things in mind:
- Focus on your training message: While humour can really make learners lively and engaged, beware of deviating from the objective of the L&D programme. Humour is a great hook, but there needs to still be a focus on the learning points. With that said, a good laugh will improve your results.
- Capture the learners’ attention: Humour from the outset can capture attention and prime learners for the lesson to come. Use humour to keep motivation rolling and grab attention.
- Keep in mind demographics: Whenever you’re using humour, be sensitive to your audience. Avoid jokes about age, income, location, ethnicity, religion, and gender. A joke might be funny to some, but offensive to others. Your humour should be neutral and objective.
Pro tip: Video is a great medium
Video is already one of the most engaging learning formats. Our brains are able to process video 60k times faster than text and employees are over 75% more likely to watch a video than read text. When partnered with humour, video becomes even more powerful. It’s also easy to access online. Professional content suppliers can work with you to provide off-the-shelf material or produce bespoke professional content.
Learner Engagement Secret #2: Provide online access to videos
With the percentage of the workforce now regularly working from home, providing access to learning modules online has never been more important. Learning & development professionals with a mature digital learning strategy were twice as likely to find the accommodation of social distancing easy.
But a quality LMS (learning management system), LXP (learning experience platform), or other digital learning platform has long been important to learner engagement. Online access does two critical things:
- It makes learning on-demand: Online platforms let learners log on, engage with learning when it’s convenient, and learn at their own pace. They can also learn from anywhere. This flexibility and personalisation improves access, use rates and makes it far easier to get learners started learning, and come back time and again.
- It makes learning easier to track: Everything you do online generates data. The more data you have, the easier it is to review outcomes and hone in on positive results. Online learning platforms let you track engagement, which will then let you improve engagement. Identify which modules are most popular, where people drop off, and develop strategies for improvement.
Do you need a fancy, modern LXP?
Modern learning platforms — often called LXPs — come with a load of user-centric features that can improve engagement. You get a slick interface that works a lot like Netflix. It’s easy to log on and start a session right where you left off. Users can select training options quickly and design their own courses. You might even get gamification features or in-app reward systems and leaderboards.
An older LMS will likely be more complicated, require users to navigate a file/folder structure, and won’t come with all of the fancy options of a modern LXP. However, what’s far more important than the specifics of the platform is simply providing online access to high-quality and engaging content.
Remember: if your modern LXP is populated with boring and irrelevant material, you aren’t doing anyone any favours.
Learner Engagement Secret #3: Keep it relevant and short
People have busy lives. You’ve got deadlines to hit — you’re probably only reading this article because you have to… unless you’re procrastinating.
If you are procrastinating, you’ve probably visited our blog before and know that we get to the point and entertain you along the way. And, that’s what you want. You want to catch people on the verge of real procrastination. But to do that, being entertaining isn’t enough. You also need to be convenient and relevant.
If learners don’t understand why they are learning, they are far less likely to engage, or retain the information. If learners need to put in hours and hours of upfront time before getting a return, they are likely to become discouraged. Well-timed and relevant modules create opportunities for learners to apply what they’ve learned in the real world — improving engagement and retention. Consider the following:
- Microlearning: Microlearning prioritises short (2-3 minute) modules in which a complete training topic is covered from start-to-finish. Broader topics get broken down into many “micro-lessons”. However, what defines microlearning is that every time a learner logs on, they leave with a tangible and actionable result. This is a great engagement strategy. It removes barriers to entry and positively reinforces engagement with every use. Not only does it improve engagement, microlearning has been shown to be 17% more efficient.
- A learning culture: Making learning an integral part of your talent management system is essential. You should aim to improve the intellectual curiosity and learnability of your team through rewarding continuous learning, giving constructive feedback, and leading by example. Make time for learning in daily work schedules and reward people for engagement.
- Soft skills: Providing “hard skills” training — coding, technical skills, digital training — is useful. But don’t underestimate the relevancy and importance of soft skills training. Think about topics like “leadership”, “team work”, “conflict resolution”, “collaboration” and more. Particularly in the current environment, where work practices seem to change on a daily basis, taking soft skills training seriously has never been more important.
Why engagement is the most important metric
Engagement is a state of mind. But it’s also a metric. Fundamentally, if your content is good, “engagement” is the most important metric for measuring the success of your learning programme. Make sure to track KPIs like:
- Total number of users
- Completion rates
- Active users as a percentage of the total
- The % of people who complete more than one course
- The % of people doing more than mandatory courses
Together, these figures will help you judge the effectiveness of your programme, and hone in on areas of improvement. With that said, the solution should actually be pretty clear. To improve “engagement” the metric, you need to improve “engagement” the mindset — and to do that, you need to address the factors we’ve been discussing here.
Learning doesn’t need to be bland or forced upon learners. Instead, focus on providing captivating L&D programmes that inspire employees to invest time in acquiring skills that will make them successful in their roles.
Using humour in L&D programs invokes interest and attention in learners. It helps make complex topics more enjoyable and exciting. If you make that content easy to access, relevant and full of usable information — learners will make time to learn. That’s engagement, and you’ll see it in the numbers.
If you already have a learning platform and want more advice on creating an effective learning programme, check out our free eBook — So, You Need a More Effective Learning Platform? Otherwise, get in touch, we can help you buy off-the-shelf engaging content, or build something bespoke. 2020 has changed learning best practices, make sure engagement dominates your strategy for 2021.