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Seven Ways to Keep Your Employees Engaged in Training

Have you ever gotten comments like these after one of your training programs has ended?

  • “I doubt that I’ll actually use any of these concepts when I get back to my job.”
  • “How much can I be expected to learn when I sit in a chair and have somebody talk at me for an entire day?”
  • “The training never addressed the biggest frustration I deal with on the job every day.”
  • “The sales trainer was full of energy, but we really needed practical selling strategies, not hype.”

Statements like those – and we have all heard them – could be telling you that you had delivered substandard, poorly designed training. But they might be telling you something else about your employee training activities . . .

You failed to engage your learners

Engagement is the key to effective training! And how do you make your training engaging? Let’s look at seven critical principles.

Critical Concept #1: Focus on a Small Number of Concepts

Cordell Riley, President of Tortal Training, believes that one of the first steps to effective learning development is to focus on only a small number of key concepts to teach. He points out that when companies assemble a team and start to design a training program, they tend to list a dozen or more topics that they plan to cover. In other words, they want their training program to teach everything.

The result, he points out, is “like expecting people to drink water from a fire hose.” And he is right. Ample research has shown that trainees usually absorb only between one and three key concepts, then they shut down mentally and stop learning.

Cordell Riley

There is a more effective way. Cordell points out that you might not have to teach all your most critical concepts during a single program of training, because you can bring trainees back for follow-up training, text them new concepts to use, and more. Training is not “once and done,” it should be an ongoing part of working for you.

Furthermore, learners’ mental focus stays strong for fewer than 20 minutes.  Which is why you need to apply Critical Concept #2 . . .

Critical Concept #2: Provide a Variety of Engaging Training Activities

Variety, it is often said, is the spice of life. It is the spice of good training too. So make your training more energizing by mixing in a variety of training formats that can include . . .

  • Games
  • Motivational talks and lectures
  • Videos
  • Interactive exercises
  • Work simulations
  • Break-out sessions
  • Actual on-the-job working experiences

Yet there is more to great training than simply providing variety. Make sure to apply Critical Concept #3 too . . .

Critical Concept #3: Use the VAK Learning Styles Model to Make Your Training “Stickier” 

The VAK model means offering training experiences that are:

  • Visual, such as illustrations, graphs, videos, highlighted text and even cartoons.
  • Auditory, such as voiceovers and narrations.
  • Kinesthetic, involving physical movement. (Get your trainees out of their chairs and get them moving around the room, or even outside the building.)

Because most people prefer to learn in one of these three styles, mix and match them to ensure your training will be better absorbed by everyone. Above all, resist the temptation to throw learning content at your trainees by giving them a page of text to read or playing a long, recorded audio conveying the same information. Mix things up!

The good news is that the technology you need to create high-quality videos is already right there on your computer or phone, allowing you to economically author engaging videos and audio files you can embed in your training courses.

The Tortal Learning Management System’s Self Authoring Tool also lets you insert videos that you have found on YouTube and Vimeo into your courses, wherever you choose. Another great idea? If you create videos of your own, post them to YouTube or Vimeo. You can then update them and link to them, without needing to redo your entire course.

Yet even “mixing things up” might not do enough to energize your learners through a long day of training. Apply Critical Concept #4 too . . . 

Critical Concept #4: Plan Your Training Day around Circadian Rhythms

Your trainees will experience energy highs and lows a different times of the day, according to their internal, biological clocks. Have you ever noticed that your energy tends to sag immediately after lunch, for example, or that you have the most energy at the start of the day? If so, you have observed circadian rhythm at work.


Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel, our CEO, has written about the importance of scheduling “high learning” sessions at the start of the day, or just before lunch. After lunch, you can schedule interactive activities that allow people to tap into each other’s energy. Then at the end of the afternoon, you can schedule tests and evaluations that let people show what they have learned. Tortal Training’s Learning Development Team can help you design a day of learning that synchs with natural circadian rhythms, and dramatically improves the effectiveness of your training.

Yet training is not a “one way street” in which employees learn and the company reaps all the benefits. To reward them, move on to Critical Concept #5 too . . . 

Critical Concept #5: Reward and Recognize Learners with Fun Learning Experiences

Taking a day of training is not easy, and trainees who are working hard like to feel that their efforts are being noticed and appreciated by your company. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts! You can express that appreciation in a variety of ways that can include , , ,

  • Graded quizzes that allow trainees to demonstrate their new knowledge . . . and be called out and recognized for scoring well.
  • Fun and funny experiences that break up the day. A karaoke session, scavenger hunt, or other energizing experience can add energy to a long day in the classroom. Just make sure that these activities synch with training goals – if not, they risk becoming frivolous.
  • Prizes and fun stuff. Don’t overdo it, since some people might think they are corny. But no matter what your trainees say, handing out fun and funny rewards can help keep them engaged.
  • Surprise visits from your company leaders. A brief, energizing visit from your CEO or president can provide variety and demonstrate that training is important.
  • And give out certificates to employees who have completed a day of training. You will be surprised how many employees will put them up in their work areas and see them as a source of pride.

And to make sure your training is addressing the questions that your learners are thinking about, apply Critical Concept #6 too . . . 

Critical Concept #6: During Training, Let Trainees Tell You What They Would Like to Learn

This Critical Concept takes training to a higher level by addressing the common post-training complaint, “The training never actually taught me to deal with the problems I face on the job.”

So while training is taking place, ask questions like these , , ,

  • “What would you like to learn today?”
  • “What’s on your mind that we still need to explore?”
  • “What frustrations are you dealing with every day on the job . . . and can we find solutions to them today?”

You can appoint one trainee to write down on a whiteboard the issues that emerge from those questions, and then initiate a group discussion about them. Or you could have trainees anonymously write down and submit their suggestions for topics to discuss and have the training leader have discussions around them.

And then when trainees do tell you what they would like to learn, make an immediate effort to provide focused training that delivers. You can, for example, bring in a department head to lead a discussion, get a vendor on a video call to answer questions, and deliver in other ways. People ask . . . and you deliver.

And here’s another way to build more engaged learning, perhaps the most important of all, Critical Concept #7 . . . 

Critical Concept #7: Tell Your Trainees the Benefits of Taking Your Training

Be sure to spell out a meaningful WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me”) benefit that lets your trainees understand a clear reason to take your training. Note that Evan Hackel, our CEO, has written about this concept in his book, Ingaging Leadership: 21 Steps to Elevate Your Business.

So when you announce a training program, be sure to trumpet a meaningful, proven benefit, such as , , ,

  • “Learn effective, no-pressure ways to get every customer to buy 25% more . . . and see your commissions soar.”
  • “In just an hour of training, you will learn to fill out your sales reports in five minutes or fewer, so you can spend more of your time selling.”
  • “This training will double the size of the tips you receive from every table of patrons you serve in our restaurant.”
  • “You will learn three proven ways to increase your monthly commission by 35%.”

The more you demonstrate the WIIFM, the more motivated people will be to engage fully in your training and master the skills that help them – and your organization – perform at a higher level.

In Summary . . . Take Responsibility for Delivering Engaging Training

Have you ever been in a meeting in your training department where someone said, “It was a really good training program . . . why didn’t anybody like it?”

If you have been in a meeting where a comment like that was made, your training department is blaming employees for a problem that you, not they, caused. The problem? You failed to deliver interesting employee training that engaged your learners!

To learn more about creating high-performing training that moves the needle and gets results, contact Tortal Training today.

The 10 Cent Decision with Laurie Guest

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