How to Give Your Employees the Training They Want

Imagine you could time travel back to a just a decade ago and observe the typical day of someone working in your industry. Chances are the way they communicated, organized their work day, and pursued their strategic goals would be very different from how you work now.

We’ve adopted new technologies, structured our work days differently, and changed the way we define and measure success. So, why are so many companies still running training the way they always have?

The world is new, and it’s changing rapidly. You want your employees to be evolving, too — and the quickest way to keep pace with change is to build thoughtful, adaptive employee education into the very fabric of your company.

But, all this training will only work if you have employee buy-in. If your employees are unconvinced of the value of a training, bored by its contents, or distracted by pressing work, they won’t learn much, no matter how fantastic your training is.

Here’s how to give your employees the training they want.

Give them autonomy in what they learn and how they learn it.

Think about the last project you were passionate about. Even if you didn’t conceive of it from end to end, you likely had some degree of say over its direction and outcomes.

Autonomy and buy-in go hand-in-hand. When you feel as though an initiative belongs to you in some way, you’re more likely to be invested in its success. According to the Harvard Business Review, autonomy may be the single most important element for creating engagement in a company.

To get engagement from your employees on learning initiatives, start by asking them what they want. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get excited about a training initiative and forget to gather the input of the most important people involved: the students.

To keep your team front and center of any learning initiative, encourage open discussions about learning and development.

  • Find out what learning opportunities your employees want.
  • Ask new employees what training they wished they’d had in previous positions.
  • Solicit feedback on previous training.
  • Bring employees into discussions about content, timing, and goals.
  • Give employees the resources they need to create their own opportunities.

Make their education relevant to their goals and challenges.

Chances are your employees have their futures on their minds, especially when it comes to maintaining relevant skills. In fact, many employees list skill atrophy as one of their primary concerns:

  • 38% of workers worry about falling behind in acquiring necessary new skills.
  • 37% worry their current job skills are inadequate for a promotion.
  • 36% struggle to keep their skills up-to-date.
  • 36% believe their current job skills fall short of where they should be.

So, before launching a training, take the time to articulate how it ties to the bigger picture. One great way to do this is to tie learning objectives to the specific business goals, team challenges, or professional development.

Example #1

Learning objective: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages.

Improved learning objective, tied to business goals: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages to increase quarterly appointments scheduled.

Example #2

Learning objective: Sales team members will demonstrate familiarity with all the essential features of karmaCRM.

Improved learning objective tied to solutions: Sales team members will demonstrate familiarity with all the essential features of karmaCRM to reduce lost prospects and make outreach process more efficient.

Example #3

Learning objective: Team leads will successfully complete two of the five technology eLearning modules.

Improved learning objective, tied to long-term growth: Team leads will successfully complete the two technology eLearning modules they believe will be most valuable in supporting their future career goals.

Anticipate and remove stumbling blocks.

Great leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they remove obstacles preventing their team from finding the answers themselves. Though your employees may know what they want, they may not have insight into what’s standing in their way of achieving it.

To be skilled at developing your team, pay close attention to how your employees learn and what impedes their success.

For example, if you have an employee who is often overshadowed by larger personalities, you may consider offering optional one-on-one tutorials or eLearning modules to supplement group learning.

If you know you have employees who struggle to listen before offering feedback or solutions, embed periods of silent individual reflection in your training before resuming a group discussion.

If an employee knows they need a certain training but is having trouble fitting it into their schedule, give them a deadline for completion. This will help them understand the training is a priority for management and give them permission to shift around other work to accommodate learning time.

Tap into their emotions.

When the world is moving a mile-a-millisecond, it becomes harder and harder to get and keep your employees’ attention. So, even when you have their buy-in, your trainings need to be engaging, fun, and memorable to cut through all the noise.

Cat videos hold our attention because they generate feelings of happiness. A picture of a friend who lives far away holds our attention because it generates feelings of love. So — you guessed it — to get their attention, create a high-emotion learning experience.

In addition to getting their attention, emotional experience is a key way to generate behavior change. That’s what makes emotion so key in creating training that leads to lasting results.

Both positive and negative emotions can increase engagement and attention. Here are some emotional states that are great for learning retention — and how you might create them in your trainings.

  • Accomplishment
    • Create small, achievable learning goals to seed your training with feelings of accomplishment
    • Praise good effort and good results
    • Incentivize or gamify lessons
  • Failure
    • Ask your team to give an example of a time when they failed to achieve a goal
    • Discuss the ramifications of lacking skills or knowledge
    • Show a video of someone doing a task poorly
  • Nostalgia
    • Solicit positive memories from your team around a specific topic and incorporate their memories into discussion
    • Draw on classic TV, movies, books, and songs in your examples
    • Frame lessons around historic events (such as the moon landing or a total eclipse)

Make it interactive.

Another way to be heard above the din is to make the learning experience interactive. In many industries, employees spend a lot of time at their desks, in front of computers, or on their smartphones. Shake things up a bit!

  • Ask questions instead of solely giving answers.
  • Include group breakout discussions.
  • Plan for hands-on activities and demonstrations that allow employees to learn through doing.
  • Include IRL assignments within eLearning modules, such as making a new connection with someone at a remote office, live group brainstorms, or hands-on tool use.
  • Create a game or competition to incentivize learning.
  • Implement microlearning opportunities throughout the workday.

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There you have it — how to deliver the training that your employees really want.

Looking for more on creating learning opportunities that they’ll love? Check out our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Engaging Your Employees in Onboarding and Training.

Are Your Employees Stuck? How to Create a Culture of Learning to Keep Them Motivated

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably seen this pattern again and again in the employees you hire. They start out strong, eager to learn all there is to know about their new position, fueled with the energy of opportunity, performing at the top of their game. They bring new ideas and creative solutions to old problems. They are ascending like rockets in your organization.

Cut to a few years down the road, and they are moving more like a city bus. They follow the same route day in and day out, hitting all the same goals they have for years. They’re still solid employees, but their growth has plateaued. They’ve stopped taking risks, stopped innovating.

Sound familiar? These employees provided fuel for your organization early on because they were invigorated by all they were learning and the promise of new opportunities. But, over time, after they mastered the essential functions of their job, the learning likely dwindled, taking away critical motivation for growth.

A recent survey of over 10,000 employees found that the two most important employer attributes are: a sense of purpose and opportunities for growth and learning. Along with providing a sense of motivation and purpose, learning in the workplace has other benefits:

So, now that you’ve seen the stats, here’s how to create a culture of learning at your organization.

Promote a growth mindset.

Many companies operate on an old-school definition of success that praises achievement, results, and talent. While it’s important to acknowledge when your employees have reached a goal or when an individual has performed well, it’s equally important to highlight and reward hard work.

Those who believe that talent is inherent and intelligence is static have a fixed mindset. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck who coined the term, praise and reward structures based on this idea of talent can have a dampening effect on employees’ willingness to learn, innovate, and take risks.

If you urge employees to embrace challenges and persist in the face of difficulty, then you instill a growth mindset. With this outlook on work, employees will come to see errors as opportunities for more learning and setbacks as natural milestones on the road to mastery. A growth mindset, fueled by learning, encourages the adaptability that’s so essential today.

Best practices

  • Reward remarkable effort alongside great results.
  • Discuss setbacks as a team with candor and curiosity.
  • Prize cooperation and teamwork over competition.

Structure feedback around learning opportunities.

With an old-school way of thinking, feedback can be frightening. If talent and intelligence are inherent, then doing something “wrong,” isn’t just a mistake — it can call into question an employee’s belief in their own abilities.

To encourage a culture of learning, link constructive feedback to concrete learning opportunities. Rather than instilling a feeling of wrong-doing, learning-focused feedback gives insight into organizational health, motivates employees to look closely at what is and isn’t working in their performance, and keeps the focus on continual improvement.

Example

Say an employee’s close rate from new leads has really plummeted in the last quarter.

Some HR leaders might pull the employee aside to pressure them to do better. If you start here, you’ll miss out on two opportunities (at least!): to help the employee learn from a challenge and to gain more insight on what isn’t working in your organization.

If, instead, you have a conversation with the employee about what has changed in the past quarter and what factors are contributing to their recent struggles, you can identify, with the employee, some strategies to overcome stumbling blocks.

Perhaps you’ll learn that a recent update to your organization’s CRM has made the outreach process much more cumbersome or that a new vertical isn’t working out as predicted.

Armed with this information, you can help the employee define a learning opportunity that will solve the problem at hand, such as successfully completing a software training. At the same time, you can help your organization make smart decisions about the larger structures that are contributing to the employee’s challenge.  

Set clear, well-defined learning goals.

You likely already set performance goals with your employees. Perhaps it’s how many sales they close in a month or how much revenue they generate in a quarter. Perhaps it’s based on outreach or other services successfully provided. These indicators of performance give you and your employees a shared sense of success and of where challenges might exist.

Learning goals are no different. Just like performance metrics, they help an employee chart their progress and can provide an idea of what areas need more attention. And like other goals, they often work best if they are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

By collaborating with your employees to articulate specific learning goals, you emphasize that learning is as important as other job functions. This encourages employees to take the time that they need to acquire the skills to improve their performance — and your organization as a whole.

Examples

You can set learning goals with employees on both the macro and the micro level.

For example, a larger learning goal might be:

By the end of the quarter, I will read three business communication books and create a tactical presentation informed by my reading for the team sales meeting.

And a learning goal for a specific training or webinar might be:

By the end of this training, I will demonstrate a deep understanding of new OSHA guidelines by outfitting 6 prep stations to the given safety specifications.

Give your employees the tools they need.

Once you set learning goals with your employees, providing access to smart tools will also send the message that your organization values on-the-job education. Without the right tools, employees may waste time seeking solutions without enough information, become frustrated, and may even be turned off a learning project entirely.

Part of creating achievable learning goals is providing each employee with everything they need to succeed — and encouraging them to use the tools at their disposal.

Best practices

  • Provide convenient, relevant eLearning modules that employees can easily slot into their workflow.
  • Keep your team informed on upcoming learning opportunities in your community or online, perhaps through a monthly internal newsletter or education-focused meeting.
  • Invite employees to share relevant articles, books, Podcasts, and other resources with each other, perhaps through shared files, a chat channel, or group email discussion.
  • Acknowledge innovative or sustained use of learning resources to inspire employees to use the tools you provide.

Hold engaging, relevant training events.

When employees think of training, they may think of boring classes, held in a fluorescent-lit room, with an outside speaker lecturing to them.

An organization built on learning, though, is one that does training right. Training can be an engaging, fun time to both instill learning and boost team morale. They are events to look forward to instead of requirements to make it through.

Best practices

  • Generate excitement before a training by sending out teaser info, emails that ask questions and engage thinking, and bonus materials beforehand.
  • Make training fun, interactive, and effective by combining a positive, active experience with memorable emotions.
  • Consider hiring learning experts to create custom learning solutions for your employees.

Looking for more on engaging employees through training? Check out our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Engaging Your Employees in Onboarding and Training.