Learner Engagement Strategies

Why Learner Engagement Strategies Fail? 5 Mistakes To Avoid

Have you ever sat through a miserable collection of lectures and surfed through an elementary quiz to earn a certificate? If your answer is a resounding yes, then you are among the thousands who pass the beautiful routine of workplace training. Increasingly a big yet ineffective industry, workplace training initiatives have become infamous and contributed effectively to undermining the efforts of L&D leaders across the globe. 

Gallup calls employee disengagement the world’s $8.8 Trillion Problem, yet over half of US employees remain disengaged from their jobs to some extent. “Engagement and culture” are the top set (41%)  when their reasons are probed. Among the list appears a commonly echoed sentiment that reflects heavily on the failure of learner engagement strategies, which is – 

“I would like to learn more things, but the work I do is quite repetitive.”

Learning and development initiatives are among the best ways to cut down on quiet quitting and turnover. An employee’s ability to envision personal and professional growth with the organization, which further facilitates internal mobility, is linked positively to their longer tenures with greater satisfaction.

The good part is that 2024 is supposed to be a year where L&D leaders are getting more say in the functional aspects of organizations and working actively with CXOs and HR teams to achieve organizational goals. The bad part is that alignment is often missing between the corporate and L&D goals – it stands as the top priority for L&D leaders in the coming year. This gap is also the cause of missing learner engagement. Conversely, the lack of alignment between L&D and the employees themselves removes the remaining engagement. So, let’s unravel this by starting from the very start – understanding learner engagement.

Learner engagement is the level of interest, attention, and participation that learners exhibit during an educational or training experience. It is a crucial aspect of effective learning, as engaged learners are more likely to acquire and retain information, stay motivated, and succeed in their educational goals. Engaged learners are actively involved in the learning process, asking questions, participating in discussions, and demonstrating a genuine interest in the subject matter. They are an L&D team’s dream. But why? 

  • Learner engagement matters because it directly correlates with how well your training is absorbed and applied. High learner engagement also leads to higher application when trouble strikes at work.
  • Imagine a lecturer going on and on without any interruption. The learning is limited to their talking points and lesson plans. How about we switch this up? Think of a lecture filled with questions and debates – the scope of learning is as far as the engagers take it. 
  • Let’s remember that L&D initiatives cost a ton. And for most of us, getting the budget sanctioned and the team approved is lengthy and tiresome. At the end of it, it should count. Learner engagement is needed to demonstrate and bring out the ROI of your plans. It is the key to your success as an L&D professional. 
A learner engagement strategy helps you put all these pieces together in place. Your ideas, metrics, and goals all come together to create an effective roadmap for you. It is a plan or set of intentional actions designed to foster and enhance learners’ engagement in an educational or training setting. A learner engagement strategy aims to create an environment that motivates learners, encourages active participation, and facilitates effective learning. Well-developed learner engagement strategies consider the audience’s diverse needs, preferences, and learning styles.

What does good learner engagement look like?

Typically, when we think of good learner engagement, we get: 

  • Asking questions and seeking feedback 
  • Applying the know-how learned earlier 
  • Consistent presence and submissions
  • Interacting with peers and trainers 
All cool. But how can we measure this for, say, a hundred employees? Seeing how many questions each of them asks will be a little hard, so we go to some metrics – some standard for measuring different aspects of engagement. These employee engagement metrics typically include things like: 

  • Changes in performance 
  • Employee retention metrics 
  • Measurement of skill gaps 
  • New skills/tools learned 

Signs your team needs a new learner engagement strategy

  • Your training initiatives do not get a high level of participation. Think of interactions, questions, and post-training conversations. Are they generating enough and the right kind of enthusiasm?
  • Employees often do not complete training 
  • Performance does not really change before and after learning. There is little impact seen during reviews and for overall team goals 
  • Team members do not get enough time to discuss or apply learning 
  • Employees often express dissatisfaction with professional growth opportunities in your team
Now that we know what ineffective learner engagement looks like, let’s investigate why it happens. Why do employees not see value in the learning plans you created with so much thought? Hint: you might not have thought of them.

Your team finds it dull and confusing

When your team member does not see how the training is relevant and valuable to them, they are unlikely to see reason in giving it their all. Sadly, training, more often than not, is dull and lacks personalization. For instance, in a survey by 360Learning with L&D managers across the US and Europe, 27% of learners responded that their management training was boring, while 23% said it was confusing or poorly structured – all the reasons for disinterest. It is bound to happen when a learner engagement strategy does not complement an L&D initiative.

It does not focus on your team’s goals

Training for large groups is envisioned as a generic slop of everything – you have a little time management on top of some quantitative skills with a side of slides on effective feedback. More often than not, your team members would like and need only a part of this platter. But without a strategy that properly tracks the skills and competencies that the teams need and the employee’s value, we end up with this confusing situation that further demotivates employees.

In the 2023 LinkedIn Learning Report, employees highlighted career growth as their biggest motivation to learn. Professional development is central to an employee’s perspective and, hence, needs to be tied well to the learning strategy you use to engage and retain employees. 

Your team cannot apply what they learn

Learning is not a one-shot activity, neither is engagement. Yet most learners face short bursts of content that will help them sail through challenges. It happens when the learner engagement strategy remains active only in the classroom and does not extend seamlessly into the workplace. As a result, the employees have little space to discuss ideas and practice things in real-life scenarios. 

For many learners, the problem is that they cannot find relatable role models in the higher echelons. These figures often act as mentors and guides to overcome challenges and low moments, yet many people, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, do not have them. 

We often spend our crucial time planning the initiative but miss out on the learner engagement strategy. As it’s a vital element of success, it’s high time that learner engagement strategies get their share in the discussions. Now that we know what hurts learner engagement let’s try to get some insights into changing this up.

Find The Goals of Your Learner Engagement Strategy 

What’s the end goal of your L&D plans? Is it gaining 100% attendance in the workshops, or is there more to it? Having this clarity can be the deal breaker for most L&D teams. LinkedIn highlighted that in the past year, most teams were overwhelmed with their priorities all over the place – including managing change across organizations, keeping people engaged at work in the after-effects of the pandemic, and taking the cause of DEI forward. In the middle of this, focus gets lost. So, the next time you start creating a learner engagement strategy, begin with clear goals derived from the organizational and leadership vision instead of relying on it solely. 

Now that we are discussing it, what does a good goal for an L&D team look like?  Suppose our goal is this:

“Conduct training sessions for all employees to enhance engagement.” 

What’s wrong here? There’s no clarity on the training sessions and who needs them.  We do not know the period of this goal’s operation. We cannot mark success or failure as we have not defined what and how much we want to achieve, 

Let’s see what we can do with the SMART goal-setting method to improve this bit of our learner engagement strategy: 

“Increase employee engagement by 20% within the next year through targeted learning initiatives and developmental programs.”

It shows a specific and measurable goal (increase employee engagement by 20%,) the period to achieve this (within the next year), and how (targeted learning initiatives and developmental programs.)

Using Relevance in a Learner Engagement Strategy

Let’s be honest: one-size-fits-all training is among the most disastrous things one can witness. It barely covers enough scope for most candidates to keep them attentive yet annoys them enough to guarantee disinterest in further initiatives. There are some places where one training can fulfil everyone’s needs when the issue is generic, and everyone needs to give it the same level of care and attention. But as soon as the training needs become role-centric and delve into job knowledge, there’s much more to it! How can you find this out? 

  • Conduct skill assessments of your employees across the key skills and competencies associated with their roles. It will help you understand where you are in the present and where the gaps lie.
  • Involve the employees and seek their feedback. It can work better as a one-on-one exercise where the team manager discusses learning interests and further guides in pursuing them.
  • Surveys can be your saviors in the case of a big team. Keep it short and simple with a few questions to understand what your team wants to do and how they envision progress. It is also helpful in understanding things like preferred learning modes and styles while showing trends at a glance. 
  • Think of the future. What skills will your team need to remain competitive as your industry evolves? Focus on building these skills that ensure resiliency in the face of advancement and overcome the issues created by skill redundancy.
As an L&D manager, knowing your team’s training needs and working according to them is crucial. Otherwise, engagement is bound to be a consistent challenge. As per LinkedIn, professional growth is the biggest motivator for workplace learning – L&D professionals need to tie these two together and generate higher engagement for programs that matter to your people. 

Designing for Learner Engagement

The key to a solid learner engagement strategy is effective interaction points. If the team can interact with and about the training freely throughout their work hours, they will likely develop a genuine interest in the program. A few factors that L&D teams can consider include: 

People differ
Not all learning techniques will work with the same efficiency for everyone; hence, keep a mix of things going to deliver better. Ensure that the tone and content are suited to them.

Visual appeal is always better over dull sermons.
Now, when discussing visuals, let’s expand on the instructor’s slides. There’s a lot more that can help create more conversation around the issue, such as adding hand-outs, flashcards, worksheets, etc, for employees to engage with after the training session in your learner engagement strategies. Plus, this helps in the retention of learning, too. 

Interactions are your best buddies while crafting a learner engagement strategy
Give people space to discuss and share what they are doing in training sessions. It will help them look forward to the program; sharing achievements and growth is exciting for the participants. Further, this peer participation reinforces the need to keep going.

Don’t punish participation.
I know this sounds ridiculous. Who even does this? But picture this: You have a long and hectic 8-hour workday staring at you, throw in some hours of chaotic commute, and then a training session that comes on top of all this. You don’t know what it’s about, but you can’t skip it, and it will take up an hour to finish some extra work. Sounds terrible, right? It happens more often than we realize and contributes heavily to the negative attitude toward training. Changing this requires mixing learning in the flow of work so that it’s an active part rather than a burden on the attendee.

Who Should Your Learner Engagement Strategy Cater? Stakeholders and How to Get Them

Now comes the tricky part of learner engagement strategies. Several L&D programs don’t see the light of day because they cannot engage stakeholders (typically senior leadership) in step one itself. How can one learning program meet the goals of multiple stakeholders? The key lies in elaborating the right bits to the right people. Before you head on to pitch, think of what matters to that stakeholder; once you know what will sway them – your job is already halfway done! Let’s get more in-depth below: 

Your primary stakeholders while drawing a learner engagement strategy are – 

The end goal for employees is to acquire new skills, knowledge, and competencies that enhance their career growth and overall performance. When pitching programs to employees, emphasize the relevance of the training to their current roles, career advancement opportunities, and the potential for personal development.

Managers and Team Leaders
Managers are concerned with improving team performance productivity, and achieving business objectives. They want their team members to develop the skills necessary to excel and contribute effectively to the organization’s success. While talking to them, highlight how the training will address specific skill gaps within their teams, improve performance metrics, and align with departmental goals.

HR and Talent Development Professionals
They seek training programs that support organizational goals, enhance employee satisfaction and retention, and contribute to a positive workplace culture. When pitching programs to HR, emphasize how the training aligns with the organization’s overall talent development strategy, addresses critical competency gaps, and promotes a learning culture.

Executives and Senior Leadership
Lastly, the hardest nut to crack, i.e., the senior leadership. Executives are concerned with driving organizational growth, innovation, and profitability. They want to see a clear return on investment (ROI) from L&D initiatives and how they contribute to the company’s bottom line. Hence, focus on the strategic impact of the training on business outcomes, such as increased revenue, cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, or market competitiveness.

In toto, while sharing your L&D ideas with the stakeholders: 
  • Speak in their language and about their goals. Demonstrate how your L&D plan is a stepping stone that they need.
  • Make numbers your friends. Results are best when they can be easily understood in metrics that people are familiar with.
  • Go with a variety of strategies. Every stakeholder has different goals and considerations that impact their decisions. 
  • All your stakeholders matter in creating high engagement for learning. While employees and managers could be the learners themselves, their social reinforcement contributes a lot. You need HR to get the space, culture, and leadership for top-level guidance and support. Ignoring either of the stakeholders can ruin the engagement equation.

Taking Learner Engagement Strategies to the Real World

Learner engagement strategies fly well on paper, but the real test comes in the real world alone. The learner engagement strategy does not start once your course has begun. Instead, you work on it as the foundation – getting the enthusiasm up, keeping it on through the program, and closing on a good note. Yet often, there’s a lack of connection between the classroom and the work desk. What can you do about it?

  • Focus on how the skills will be applied from the very start. If you start with a reasonable assessment of training needs, you will have an accurate profile of your team’s training needs. In the second step, the key lies in creating opportunities for applying those skills. Managers can delegate relevant work or place people in projects that match their interests to encourage this. 
  • Learner engagement strategies are not a one-way communication. Instead, turn them into a two-way exercise that keeps you up-to-date with the latest developments and thoughts of the team. After learning initiatives, make a habit of collecting and studying feedback from the participants. It will help the learners see their impact on the planning and motivate them to help you.
  • The ultimate question in a learner engagement strategy: how do we motivate learners? Even after everything, someone does not want to participate in training as much as you want. There’s no one-shot panacea to this, either. So what can you do? Have a chat. Discuss the issues they see with the training and elaborate on your side of things: why the training has been designed and how it will help them and the team work better. In such cases, the team manager is the appropriate liaison to get the roadblock out. 
Learner engagement strategies can be the trickiest part for an L&D team to decode. The bottom line is that impact is heavily derived from the overall organizational culture and management’s attitude toward learning in general. So go the same way in tackling these challenges and setting things right for your team. 

Are you stuck with ineffective learner engagement strategies? Check out Risely in a free 14-day trial to see how we make learning exciting, one nudge at a time. We know long hours of training can be dull and tiresome, so we step back and resolve people management woes one step at a time. With an AI chatbot, Merlin, to support your managers 24*7, multiple skill assessments, and an understanding of over 50 challenges, Risely offers guidance designed just for you. 

Check out Risely in a free 14-day trial.

Explore a new way of leadership development – powered by AI.

Other Related Blogs

Leadership Training Activities

12 Easy To Do Leadership Training Activities

12 Easy To Do Leadership Training Activities Leadership training activities are an excellent way to enhance leadership skills, promote team building, and improve overall productivity. These activities allow individuals to…

Mastering Leadership Team Development Techniques

Mastering Leadership Team Development Techniques Leadership teams play a crucial role in the success of any organization. Comprising of senior leaders and executives, these teams act as the strategic think…

5 Unique Benefits Of Online Leadership Coaching

5 Unique Benefits Of Online Leadership Coaching Remember the days of leadership development being confined to a stuffy conference room filled with flipcharts and generic advice? Yeah, those days are…

Top 10 Leadership Podcasts of 2024: Find Your Perfect Leadership Development Fit

Top 10 Leadership Podcasts of 2024: Find Your Perfect Leadership Development Fit Ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in all the leadership development…

Comments are closed.