The most common definition of engagement refers to the classroom, whether it’s the live classroom, the virtual live classroom, or the virtual classroom. Plus, engagement also typically refers to our materials, our quick reference guides, and our just-in-time learning interventions. But what happens before the participant starts a learning experience? Does he or she go to training simply because the boss said it’s required, or does the participant know what he or she stands to gain? As we discuss engagement, it’s necessary to start outside of the classroom.

One of the first places to engage learners is at the recruiting table or the job interview. Believe it or not, a potential job candidate can become much more engaged in training if he or she knows about it before the first day. To ensure that this happens, make sure that HR knows what programs will be offered to which employee groups. Consider creating a quick flyer or description of training to use as collateral when recruiting is in full swing. When the new hire gets to training, he or she will be ready – and excited – about the knowledge that’s coming.

But it’s not always as easy as using training as a marketing tool for potential candidates. The internal audience, that is, the employees who are already hired, need to be engaged before they go to training. And if training does not have a great reputation, this task may be more difficult. One of the first items to remember when it comes to pre-training engagement is one of our keys to engagement, relevance. Remember that relevance is often about benefits, so any training program you offer should have definite benefits tied to it. A potential participant should know why he or she should be excited about going to training – and this is the job of the training department. In other words, marketing and advertising is an essential part of the training department. But how can training managers engage participants?

One of the first ways to engage before learning is simply through constant communication. Training departments should always have some kind of contact with the population, even if segments of that population are not actively in training. This contact could take the form of a newsletter, web page, or even a blog. The training department should make people aware of what programs are being offered, what programs are coming, and even what’s new and hot in the learning industry. If you can show that you have a pulse on target audiences in general, your own target audiences will be all the more receptive. In this sense, training becomes the product that is part of a marketing strategy – it’s all about how you place the product to make it visible to your potential audiences.

But when it comes to a new offering or a new delivery method, the training advertising machine should kick into action. First consider how the organization as a whole communicates with employees about new initiatives, company news, and volunteer opportunities. Then consider how training can emulate these methods to advertise programs effectively. In fact, your organization’s marketing department may be very willing to help you come up with a campaign of your own. Training is no longer a “come as you need it” product – it needs to be out in front with features and benefits just like any other product or service.

When employees enter the classroom, whether it’s the virtual or live classroom, marketing should continue. Instead of going right to the objectives, consider writing content that engages the learner first. For example, present a problem that the target audience faces and then explain how the training is going to solve it. Then move on to the traditional and necessary objectives and outcomes. If you look at the training intervention itself as a marketing and advertising opportunity, you may end up with much more engaged learners, because they know without a doubt what the benefits are.

Now that we have discussed what happens before the learner arrives in the classroom, let’s move to an examination of classroom engagement techniques.

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.

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