To begin our examination of engaging training participants, it’s necessary to look at the overall keys to engaging the adult learner. Regardless of where your training takes you or your participants, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes on these keys at all times. In addition, if you can use the keys to engagement as a litmus test on training, materials, and training marketing, you will find that it’s easier to keep them in mind.
The first key to engaging participants is relevance. Adults tend to learn when they have an experience to “pair” with the knowledge. Although it’s difficult to do this with abstract topics or for subjects with which the participants have little experience, it’s still possible to make learning relevant. For example, if customer service training dives into a technical or “behind the scenes” explanation of a product or service, it’s easier for them to tune out the knowledge. But if you link the learning to their jobs, making it relevant, they will be more likely to retain the information. The secret is learning how to make a job linkage relevant. It could be that they need to understand the technical explanation in case a customer asks. Or, it could be that the customer service person needs to understand what happens behind the scenes in order to understand the process of helping the customer fix his or her problem. In other words, relevance is all about the benefit to the learner. What does he or she stand to gain by staying tuned in?
Next, applicability is very important. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a great thing, but not necessarily in the organizational or corporate sense. There are some things that adult learners, your training participants, really don’t need to know in order to do their jobs. And the key here is that applicability usually means, “in order to do their jobs.” If knowledge does not apply directly to a job function, such as the above explanations of a technical process, then it may be a good idea to leave it out of training altogether. Another way to check for applicability is to go back to your stakeholders’ descriptions of what the participants need to be able to do once they have completed training. In addition, the objectives or outcomes of your learning interventions can test the applicability of the subject matter and its corresponding materials.
The third key to engagement is accessibility. Training should be accessible in a way that is appropriate to its audience. If you have salespeople onsite for a week long seminar, classroom interventions with high interaction will be the most accessible to the participants. On the other hand, if your audience consists of remote technicians who deal with complex applications, the most accessible path may be online or social-media style interventions. In some cases, accessibility means making a program available depending on a learner’s style. For example, a general course can be offered in the classroom, online with audio, and online without audio in order to be accessible to all learning styles. Plus, having learning opportunities available via a Learning Management System is another way to make training accessible.
The fourth key to engagement is manageability. However you deliver training or make it accessible, it must be manageable for the learner, and this depends on the subject and the audience. You may have heard training professionals talk about “chunking” material – this is the same thing as making it manageable. Content should be broken down into the most “digestible” segments possible to maximize engagement and retention. Even if you are providing a multiple week “boot camp” style training, breaks for learners should come every 60 to 70 minutes.
Finally, content should be interchangeable. This simply means that the “digestible chunks” we’ve just discussed should be written in a way that makes them useful to other audiences and in other delivery modes. For example, general knowledge content that is provided by a live instructor can be modified to go into an online tutorial or a self-directed learning intervention.
Now that we’ve examined the keys of engagement, let’s move on to pre-training engagement in the form of marketing and advertising.
Copyright 2010-2017 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.
Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.
Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson