It takes a lot to get people’s attention these days. So, if you struggle with checked out employees during training, it’s likely you need to up the fun quotient.
Here are 21 actionable ways to make your trainings immediately more fun.
Generate excitement beforehand
Your employees will begin to form their learning mindset before your training even begins, so use your training promotion to set expectations for fun.
- Give your training an enticing title. Instead of “Holiday Customer Service Expectations and Guidelines,” go for something that piques their interest and speaks directly to how the training might benefit them: Bah Humbug! Dealing with Customer McScrooge and Other Holiday Customer Service Hacks.
- Promote the training to generate interest beforehand. Think outside the standard email or meeting announcement, like an interoffice postcard or text message invites.
- Post articles, videos, podcasts, games, and other resources relevant to your training in your social feeds to get the conversation started early.
- Ask your team to put some time into a fun pre-training activity, such as reading a controversial or engaging book on the subject, visiting a relevant exhibit at a local museum, or attending a talk. It may seem like a big ask, but they’ll come to the training ready to talk and learn more.
The way we consume information every day has become more and more visual. Your employees are used to videos, images, and aesthetically pleasing websites supplementing their learning — so make the classroom or your eLearning environment visually engaging.
- Use images, such as photographs, comics, and drawings, to break up information-heavy sections of your training.
- Use brightly-colored images, graphs, and flow charts to make data and statistics more engaging.
- Queue up videos and gifs to animate your points. Tap a broad source of resources to keep materials engaging — from instructional videos to pop culture references.
- Tie concepts to relevant images or visual representations. By repeating the images throughout your lessons, they can become a sort of visual shorthand that will help your students learn and retain information.
Encourage creative play.
Creativity isn’t just great for encouraging productivity and new solutions — it’s also essentially high-level learning in action. Creative play grabs your team’s attention, applies learning to real-life simulations, and makes things a lot more fun.
- Have your team role play common scenarios and act out challenges, solutions, and even bad choices.
- Invite your employees to draw, paint, and collage as a means of expressing their understanding of abstract concepts or complex ideas.
- Create a training video as a team. This will increase engagement, improve retention of ideas, and can serve as a learning asset in the future.
- Play music throughout the training to strengthen learning and keep the mood upbeat.
Games are pretty much synonymous with fun. And by gamifying training, you up the stakes for your employees and increase the chances that your team will be rapt by your training.
- Incentivize engagement. Create a scorecard that gives points for engagement tasks, such as demonstrating hands-on knowledge or sharing a useful article with the team. Display scores and award prizes for top achievers.
- Use rewards, badges, points, or another progress-tracking system to encourage your team to learn bite-sized chunks of information. These mini-lessons will build over time into mastery of larger concepts.
- Model your online training after a video game, with interactive steps, point systems, and clearly defined goals.
- Use a familiar game to organize your in-person learning, such as building out a training-specific Clue or Monopoly game.
- Encourage your team to make up their own quiz game to demonstrate and test knowledge retention.
Make it interactive.
Like creative play and gamification, interactive activities draw your employees in, mix up the learning experience, and make your team a part of the action.
- Get them on their feet to participate in site-specific learning, facility tours, or field trips.
- Make group discussions more fun by having teams answer creative icebreakers, like what their superpower would be, their favorite childhood book or tv show, or their favorite vacation memory. These can help the more serious conversations flow better, too.
- Tell stories instead of reciting dry information. Invite your employees to share stories and experiences relevant to your topic, too.
- Divide your team into small groups by expertise or knowledge base. Have each small group teach a mini-lesson to the rest of the team.
Looking for more actionable tips on how to make training fun? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Engaging Your Employees in Onboarding and Training.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” — Denis Waitley, The Psychology of Motivation
We live in a society obsessed with success. So it may seem strange, but we’re going to encourage you to let your employees fail — again and again.
According to a University of Texas study, a new skill “must be culled from a string of mistakes.” So, the truth is — failure is the backbone of learning.
Consider a child who’s learning to read. If her teachers make fun of her mistakes or her parents mock her stumbling, she’ll be afraid to try. If she confuses how good she is as a person with how good she is as a student, she might even face paralysis.
But, if her teachers make it safe for her to get it wrong, if her parents are patient and encouraging as she tries again and again, eventually, she’ll be reading herself bedtime stories.
Some benefits of making space for failure in learning:
- Permission to fail gives employees permission to try.
- It’s through failure that we learn what success looks like.
- Failure makes us smarter.
- Failure often yields innovation.
Here’s how to encourage your employees to fail better.
Frame mistakes as learning opportunities.
Bill Gates once said, “In the corporate world, when someone makes a mistake, everyone runs for cover. At Microsoft, I try to put an end to that kind of thinking. It’s fine to celebrate success, but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure. How a company deals with mistakes suggests how well it will bring out the best ideas and talents of its people, and how effectively it will respond to change.”
Creating space for productive failure doesn’t start in the training room. It’s part of the everyday work you do with your employees, part of building a culture of learning. When your employees make mistakes, skip the dressing down. Instead, push them to look for the lessons within their failures.
Tips on learning from mistakes:
- Remind your team that they can constantly improve. No one’s expected to get everything right from day 1. Instead of striving for instant perfection, your employees can work to continually improve.
- Develop a mistake management plan with your team. Just as you have plans for responding to emergencies and for reaching strategic goals, a mistake management plan gives you a structure to triage an unfortunate situation and to foster team improvement. Peter Coffee, VP of Strategic Research at Salesforce, says of mistake management plans: “A culture of learning from failure arises when every team member shares ownership of the plan–or better still, when every team member is author as well as owner of a personal plan.”
- Encourage transparent discussions about how things have gone south. If frank, honest self-reflection and self-criticism are a regular part of your team dynamic, you can all learn from mistakes together.
- Keep track of mistakes and the lessons they taught your team. Though it may seem like a record of embarrassment, an error log can actually remove the stigma of messing up and encourage team learning around missteps. Sarah Nahm, CEO of Lever, says, “Our marketing team started an internal spreadsheet of ‘Marketing Mistakes’ that they periodically review in meetings, to show that it’s not the end of the world when things go wrong and that the main thing is to learn from the experience.”
Air your dirty laundry.
Dave Finocchio, CEO of Bleacher Report, says, “I make mistakes all the time, and talk about them openly with people up and down our hierarchy. It fosters a culture where people should feel comfortable critiquing themselves honestly.”
Take the lead in being open and proactive about your mistakes.
Tips on leading by example and owning your errors:
- Analyze why you made the mistake. Was it a result of mismanaging your time? A failure of communication? A misunderstanding that snowballed? Share what you find with your team.
- Discuss the process you used to come up with a solution or remedy. Let your team into your post-error thought process. This will be helpful for them when they’re searching for the lesson in their own failures.
- Practice radical honesty. Invite your team to discuss what they perceive as your failures with you, too. You’ll all learn more quickly as a result.
- Avoid self-deprecation or speaking harshly about your own errors. This still sends the message that errors are to be feared.
Encourage experimentation in your training.
Experimenting takes the stigma out of failure. The point of trying new tactics, looking at challenges from unique angles, or thinking a little differently is not to get anything “right.” It’s simply to learn, explore, and investigate.
Evgeny Morozov, author of To Save Everything, Click, said, “Creative experimentation propels our culture forward. That our stories of innovation tend to glorify the breakthroughs and edit out all the experimental mistakes doesn’t mean that mistakes play a trivial role. . . . Without some protected, even sacred, space for mistakes, innovation would cease.”
By giving your employees room to experiment when they’re learning, they can move away from a rigid and limiting definition of success towards a mode of thinking that allows for more innovation.
Tips for encouraging experimentation in your training:
- Invite employees to explore new devices, software, and other resources in an unstructured way. Giving them hands-on time simply to get acquainted with tools will free them from pressure to perform correctly.
- Don’t provide the answers. Get comfy with a bit of protracted silence in your employee training. By resisting the urge to jump in with a ready-made answer, you encourage your team to take more risks and think on their feet.
- Extend your brainstorming sessions. The first responses are likely the most standard or conventional. They’re the solutions that are top of mind. Be patient and hold out for some more innovative ideas (sitting with the silence when necessary).
- Create space for spitballing. Establish an accepted, low-risk way to try out any idea on the rest of the team. Building off an in-training discussion, start a “Wild Ideas” Slack channel or Facebook group. Or hold a monthly happy hour in which your team only talks about the weirdest, most creative ideas they’ve been kicking around.
Equip every training with a failure playground.
Just like nailing a sales pitch or mastering a new CRM, failing well is a skill to be practiced. Along with the topic-specific curricula, you can embed training with a little failure practice. Over time, your team will not only learn the latest regulations or ace Advanced Photoshop, but they’ll become skilled at understanding the lesson embedded in their professional mistakes.
Tips on creating failure playgrounds:
- Have your team role play the wrong way to do a task. Then, have them discuss the errors and methods of improvement.
- Conduct freewriting exercises around a pertinent topic and challenge your team to share what they’ve written on the fly. This will encourage your employees to be messy with each other sometimes and to think in front of each other, even if it isn’t perfect.
- After hands-on exploration, ask employees to discuss a challenge they had with a new tool. By walking through the place they stumbled, they can both draw attention to specific areas which need more learning and give insight into how they worked through a difficulty.
- A few weeks after a training, check in with your employees and ask them to share both their successes and failures around their recent learning. This will give you an opportunity to reinforce the lessons of the training and provide targeted microlearning lessons to address trouble spots, and for the team to practice discussing errors constructively.
There you have it, how to get your employees to learn more by helping them fail better.
Looking for more tips on creating challenging training for your team? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Engaging Your Employees in Onboarding and Training.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Create small, achievable learning goals to seed your training with feelings of accomplishment
- Praise good effort and good results
- Incentivize or gamify lessons
- 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
- 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.
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.
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:
- It will increase employee engagement. Nearly half of disengaged employees (46%) report a lack of learning opportunities as a reason for their disengagement.
- It will improve your organization’s profitability. Companies that offer comprehensive training have a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t.
- It will keep your organization adaptable. In five years’ time, 91% of HR decision-makers think it’s likely that people will be recruited on their ability to deal with
change and uncertainty.
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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
You’ve seen all the signs.
In many industries, companies are competing for qualified candidates because there aren’t enough of them to go around.
The skills your employees need to stay ahead of the game may shift more quickly than ever before — what was cutting edge four years ago may be inadequate today.
The youngest segment of the workforce — Millennials and their younger siblings, Gen Z — list career development as one of their top priorities. In two recent surveys, 87% of Millennials said that professional development was very important to them and Gen Z employees cited development opportunities as the most important factor in their job searches, alongside pay.
The evidence is in: learning and development is more important than ever before. In an extensive study of more than 2,500 companies, The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that companies that offer comprehensive training have a 24% higher profit margin than those who don’t.
But not just any training will do.
With a war for talent raging, if you don’t keep your employees engaged, they will defect to other organizations. Disengaged employees are dragging down the workforce, costing billions in turnover, slowing productivity, and impacting morale. A big cause of employee disengagement? You guessed it: 46% of employees cite a lack of new learning opportunities and professional growth as a reason for their disengagement.
Here’s how to engage your employees in your onboarding and training.
Encourage a culture of learning.
The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture. —Josh Bersin
You may be thinking that creating a culture of learning is about providing the best educational resources, holding lots of training, or offering employees funding for external training. While these are great steps, a culture of learning starts with your organizational mindset.
Do you praise talent, achievement, and perfection? Or do you reward growth, development, and progress? Carol Dweck, Stanford psychologist and author of Mindset: The New Philosophy of Success, categorizes these as two different ways of interacting with challenges and achievements. An organization focused on unerring excellence may be grounded in what she calls in a fixed mindset.
A fixed mindset is based on the belief that core qualities, such as intelligence, leadership, and talent, are carved in stone. You are born a winner … or not so much.
Dweck says, “I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is based on the belief that your core qualities can be cultivated through effort, passion, and hard work. Dweck says that people with a growth mindset “believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”
How to encourage a growth mindset
- Acknowledge hard work. While praising accomplishments is great, don’t forget to honor effort, even if it doesn’t result in big wins.
- Celebrate successes as a team. Instead of encouraging the me-first competitive thinking that can shut down growth, stress that every employee’s accomplishments are opportunities to learn and be inspired.
- Clearly tie feedback to learning opportunities. If you discuss an employee’s struggle with time management, for example, you might introduce them to a time-tracking tool like RescueTime or a focus-boosting app like Forest. You might share your favorite time management articles with them or get their feedback on what kind of time management mini-lessons would be helpful for them at the next staff meeting.
- Look for resources that will help your employees get stronger in the aspects of their work that challenge them the most.
- Encourage your team to dedicate time to learning. This is about more than deciding to be open to learning — put it on the calendar so it’ll really happen. Noah Kagan, founder of SumoMe and employee #30 at Facebook, stresses the importance of scheduling time just for reading and learning every week.
- Hold informal team learning sessions over lunch or happy hour.
- Organize your team into smaller learning groups who can tackle eLearning modules together.
- Discuss and establish learning goals with new employees and stress that they are as important as other performance goals.
- Tailor your interview questions to identify growth-oriented new employees. Dweck gives examples of interview questions you can use:
Tailor training to your employees’ needs.
Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities. —Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence
Pop quiz. What’s the best way to get someone’s attention?
- Talk about a familiar event.
- Read them a list of rules.
- Talk about yourself.
- Tell them how they should do something.
- Tell them a story they star in.
Though the first four options are common teaching methods, (E) is going to knock the others out of the park. People pay attention to, relate to, and remember stories that are about them. They perk up when they know something relates to them personally — it’s why your own name uniquely captures your attention and why Amazon shows you products based on what you’ve liked in the past. We are drawn to information about ourselves that speaks directly to what we want and need.
To create and sustain buy-in for your training initiatives, customize them to your employees’ needs.
How to give your employees the training they want
- Ask your employees what training they would like and what areas they think their team needs to improve on.
- Ask new employees what training they wish they had received in previous positions.
- Solicit feedback on how effective previous trainings were and what would’ve made them more useful.
- Tie every training to the business need it fulfills. Whenever you communicate about an upcoming training, highlight its benefits and impacts.
- Stay on the pulse of what your employees value, how they’re struggling, and what currently impedes their success, as it may change often. Your team will need a different training when they’re focused on sales goals than when they’re prioritizing team cohesion.
- Prioritize education that will improve upon and expand the skills that help each employee do their job better. Be sure to consider:
- Functional skills (such as advanced Excel functions or how to create memorable graphics)
- Interpersonal skills (such as emotional intelligence or effective business communication on social media)
- Leadership skills (such as how to provide motivational feedback or how to run powerful meetings)
Time your training thoughtfully.
It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten. —Anna Wintour
Timing affects everything. Whether your employees are receptive to a new piece of information or able to engage analytically with a problem can vary based on where they are in their workflow, their current priorities, and even the time of day. You can put every piece of advice in this guide into practice, but if your timing is off, things are likely to go south.
What to consider when scheduling your trainings
- Is your team ready to learn the material?
- Is this the most relevant training you could offer right now?
- What time of day will your team learn best? Does your team have any duties that might be distracting them during a training?
- Does the training align with current business priorities?
- Are onboarding trainings scheduled in the most logical order? Which trainings build off of each other or are dependent on each other to be useful?
- How much time does the training need? Are any eLearning modules unrealistically long for a single sitting?
- How much time do employees need to reflect, refresh, and apply materials before they need to implement the training material?
- Will the training coincide with any high-pressure times, such as peak sales seasons or holiday rushes?
Help your team feel safe enough to take risks.
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. —Samuel Beckett
There’s a reason that a passage about failure from an avant-garde Irish writer has become a motto of many of today’s most successful people, across myriad industries.
Tennis pro Stanislas Wawrinka has the quote above tattooed on his forearm.
Mindfulness rockstar and Tibetan monk Pema Chodron titled her book of wisdom Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown.
Silicon Valley has embraced a culture of failing better. Astro Teller, entrepreneur and scientist at X (formerly Google X) for example, encourages people to celebrate failure, calling it “accelerated learning”:
For your team to learn well, they need to feel safe enough to take risks that might not pan out, to suggest ideas that might be unpopular, and to try something that they might be bad at. Part of building a growth mindset is creating learning environments where trying hard and failing isn’t just allowed, but encouraged.
What’s more, when your employees are stressed or afraid of failure during a training, it impedes their ability to learn. In his foundational study of the impact of fear and stress on students, educational researcher Stephen Krashan found that stress and anxiety impede learning, rendering learners less capable of storing new information.
Dr. Judy Willis, neurologist and teacher, says, “Students’ comfort level has critical impact on information transmission and storage in the brain.” The factors that impact that comfort level, such as self-confidence, trust in instructor, and a supportive classroom and community, “are directly related to the state of mind compatible with the most successful learning, remembering, and higher-order thinking.”
How to keep trainings safe
- Encourage trials, risks, and experimentation.
- Lead by example. Share stories of your own learning failures, missteps, and mistakes.
- Build up team interactions by using training methods that encourage interaction (see below).
- Spark dialogue, encourage questions, and stage hands-on demonstrations.
- Stress that no question is stupid or too basic. All learners may come from different levels of comfort with a topic at hand. And sometimes the most basic questions can yield new insight.
- Leave competition at the door. Collaborative training spaces will help learners feel open and engaged.
- Avoid directly linking training performance to compensation or promotions.
Set learning free from the classroom.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. —Plutarch
You and most of your employees have probably gone through many traditional educational environments — with some form of stand-and-deliver lectures. These involve a lot of sitting, a lot of information from the instructor, and often, a lot of boredom.
But, the sad news is that, in addition to being unengaging, lectures are ineffective. A recent study found that students in stand-and-deliver lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students participating in classes that use more active learning methods.
And yet, more than 40% of business trainings are stand-and-deliver lectures in a classroom setting.
Freeing corporate learning from the classroom will help improve buy-in, increase engagement, and improve retention.
How to leave the lecture behind:
- Start with how you learned the material you’d like to teach your employees. What was the most effective method for you? Were you in a small seminar? Were you doing a hands-on e-practicum from your kitchen table? Were you sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues at a luncheon?
- Consider holding your trainings in the same environment where the knowledge will be applied.
- Take employees to the sales floor to teach them handselling techniques.
- Set up a mock call center to teach your team phone etiquette and call scripts.
- Hold your ergonomics training in an office where employees can try out different chairs, desk arrangements, and technology.
- Take advantage of new employee tours as learning opportunities.
- As you walk around the office, give micro-lessons in relevant spots. Demonstrate how to use the technology in the conference room. Teach them how to sign in meeting participants at the front desk.
- Meet-and-greets can double as lessons specific to each colleague. For example, if a new employee will be sending purchasing orders to the shipping manager, pause in the tour to have that manager demonstrate how to file an order.
- If you would like to mix it up in a classroom setting, try varying any information delivery with the kinds of hands-on, active, and interactive techniques discussed throughout this guide.
Make trainings fun!
People always ask me, “How do you come up with those wild advertising ideas?” And I always say something very mystical, like I had a flash in the shower or God appeared. The fact is that my brain goes out to play. That’s what creativity is — intelligence having fun. —Joey Reiman
In our distraction-filled, information rich society, it takes more and more to get people’s attention. When your employees aren’t at work, they can be constantly entertained. With smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, they have become expert boredom avoiders, reading articles in the elevator, watching video clips in their doctor’s office, or listening to podcasts while they’re waiting in line for coffee. As tolerance for boredom erodes, employees need more and more stimulation to stay engaged.
A dry recitation of facts, a text-heavy eLearning module, or a long lecture aren’t going to cut it. Many of the most popular sources of information — such as The Daily Show, BuzzFeed, or news websites — combine comedy, quizzes, visual stimulus, comment sections, and more to gain and sustain interaction. Take a page from these sites and include humor, games, and interaction to keep your employees engaged.
How to make trainings more fun
- Generate excitement about your trainings beforehand.
- Send emails that let employees know what they’ll be learning and why.
- Use casual, conversational language in your training announcements and materials.
- Use your social media accounts to post questions, thought-starters, and info relevant to the training to get people engaged early.
- Be funny. Humor builds team cohesion, improves information retention, and keeps the atmosphere of a training positive.
- Use humorous examples, like this bad customer service montage, cringe-worthy sales pitch skit, or terrible cold call, to generate a discussion about how to do something right.
- Tap nostalgic associations and other familiar ideas to build new learning. A little nostalgia for the good old days can improve your mood, reduce stress, and encourage positive thoughts about the future.
- Include snippets from old tv shows, popular songs from decades past, or Oscar-winners from yesteryear to jumpstart conversations.
- Bring in some old ads to discuss popular trends or to provide your lesson’s historical framework.
- Generate conversation about childhood experiences to get people thinking about how they might generate similar positive experiences for clients today.
- Draw on relevant popular culture references to get people’s attention and make learning more memorable. Check out what’s trending on Twitter or the year’s most popular memes and see if you can tie them into an upcoming lesson.
- Allow employees to create with the information. They’re more likely to remember a lesson. Interacting with material in new ways can generate insight, propel new discussions, and encourage new perspectives.
- If they’re discussing qualities of a great sales leader, for example, you might have them draw a lifesize image of an ideal leader.
- Have employees put on skits to roleplay common workplace scenarios.
- Creating training videos and other materials can be a training exercise for your team in and of itself. Who knows, your team’s video might go viral, too.
- Make a game of it!
- Encourage interaction.
- Break larger group sessions into small group discussions.
- Encourage pairs of employees to talk about training topics.
- Tell stories and ask your team to share their own.
Help your employees apply their learning right away.
If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy. —Jim Rohn
You can create the most engaging, informative, knock-your-socks off training in the history of workplace trainings. But if you don’t connect the dots on how that info can be applied to your employees’ jobs, chances are, you won’t see valuable results. Each learning module, piece of info, and activity in a training should be tied explicitly to real-world applications.
How to encourage info application
- Use real-world examples during trainings so employees are primed to use new info right away.
- Design hands-on trainings and demos. Instead of showing employees how to do something, teach them as they try to do it.
- Rely on screen shares and screen recordings to make eLearning more hands-on.
- Give employees the tools they need to apply info while they are in the training. Instead of talking about baseball for 2 weeks and then putting a ball and glove in their hands, give them a ball and glove from day one.
- Encourage employees to talk through their problem-solving process while they’re trying out new materials.
Repeat information often to make it stick.
Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment. —Zig Ziglar
Learning isn’t a one-and-done sort of affair. It takes many repetitions to make learning stick. In studying optimal learning, performance consultant and research psychologist Will Thalheimer found that:
- Repetitions—if well designed—are very effective in supporting learning.
- Spaced repetitions are generally more effective than non-spaced repetitions.
- Spacing is particularly beneficial if long-term retention is the goal—as is true of
most training situations. Spacing helps minimize forgetting.
When designing your training, don’t limit your plans to the material you’ll cover the first time you introduce it to your employees. Consider how you’ll use spaced repetitions as the backbone of an ongoing learning experience.
- During the training, have employees draft postcards to themselves, reminding them of key lessons or experiences during the training. Mail the postcards at intervals in the coming months.
- Encourage employees to set informative reminders for themselves in their calendar, with notes that re-ask essential questions or prompt employees to revisit training ideas.
- Ask team members to schedule one-on-one learning sessions with each other in the months after the initial training ends. They can ask each other relevant questions, problem solve, and discuss how the training has impacted both their day-to-day operations and their big-picture thinking.
- Set up a follow-up email course that walks employees through additional refreshers, offers reminders, and expands on previous lessons.
So there you have it, the ultimate guide to creating engaging trainings for your new employees and your existing team.
Looking for a hand in creating memorable, fun trainings? Get in touch with Impart! today for a free consultation.