Decoding Learner Engagement
How do you know if your organization is approaching learning engagement in the right way? What does this look like? Who within the organization is responsible for fostering a learning engagement culture?.
Before I provide my thoughts; I must admit two important biases: (1) I believe that learning is essential to organizational success; and (2) without learning there can be no growth (organizationally or individually). Not only is learning engagement necessary to remain competitive in today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, it is an important component or sub-set of employee engagement.
Whenever I hear talk of learning engagement I wonder what the problem is. I doubt that it’s the learners, their role possibly — but not them personally. All through the article, I address corporate employees aka participants as learners since organisations are expecting them to learn and not just get trained.
Let’s face it; engagement is the super-secret sauce to nailing your training initiative!.
Research around learner engagement has changed over the past 10 years. During the 2000’s, learner engagement research largely dealt with a marginal population that was disengaged from the class-room training and eventually drop-out. Jump ahead 10 years. While this problem still exists, learner engagement research deals with a sizable population of employees. In fact, the majority of our learners aren’t engaged in their day to day learning. Depending on the training intervention, anywhere from 50 to almost 70% of employees are not engaged in their learning, post class-room.
When I first learned this statistic a few years ago I was stunned. One might think that our “top” performers are engaged in their learning. Studies shows most aren’t. They are better off being coached and mentored on one-off specific skills on the job from the real world. It’s the 70% of average learners who need the most of performance support, after training.
What do I mean by the term learner engagement? There are as many definitions for this term as there are words in this article of mine. Engagement is often broken down into different categories: social/psychological, behavioural, academic/cognitive, or some variation of these. Some deal strictly with behavioural compliance in a classroom, but that’s not what I’m interested in. For me, engagement is a genuine disposition for self-directed, deep learning, fostered from early employment and continues life-long. That’s the point of engagement, not to coerce employees into performing the tasks we want them to do.
Starting at the end of a training week, learner engagement begins to plummet, until about 5-7 days post training, when it bottoms out at about 30%. I’m curious as to why this starts a day after the training. What happens in the first week psychologically or neurologically that prompts this free-fall?.
Simple, the brain works on a use it or lose it principle!
So you can see why a boring environment having a more powerful thinning effect on the brain cortex than an exciting or enriched environment has on cortex thickening is a big deal. Repeated classroom trainings without sufficient on the job engagement and mentoring environments might actually be harming our employees ability to think and apply.
At Learngage, we are making successful attempts in addressing this complex problem for our clients. For instance we encouraged participatory action planning as an engagement tool for one of our IT clients across 200 learners as a means to not only amplify employee voice around this issue, but also to empower them to change the circumstances in which they learn.
Participatory action planning allows learners to become partners in creating the learning they want and need. They identify the problems in their current circumstances and co-create the solutions. They write. They speak. They change not only themselves but also the learning environment around them. In short, they make a difference.
Another engagement tool we used for one of our engineering client for their 6-month leadership program was outcome videos, which I think authentically gives power of self-reflection to learners. Through recording outcome videos, the learners were able to merge learning concepts with applied practice on the job and share their success stories. It is often used as a peer-peer learning exercise to motivate and challenge each other, and also is intended to give insight into how they conceptualize their work circumstances and perceive learning together.
Systems and networks are connecting us like never before. It is changing the way we work and live. And it is changing the expectations of learning within organizations. We are all brand ambassadors 24x7 – it’s not enough to check the box on training, employees have to live it. They can’t just read compliance or a leadership training content, they need to discuss, practice, and embed it into their daily practice.
This 3-part series will focus on fostering learning engagement and measuring it to help you enable behaviour change within your organization.