Employee training can mean the difference between mediocre staff and top-notch performers. It can also help employees develop their applicable professional skills (time management, effective communication, etc.), as well as provide industry-specific knowledge and expertise.
The challenge many organizations face when it comes to training is engagement, as training is often viewed as simply a box to check, a requirement without a benefit, and something that just takes up time—time employees would rather spend doing something else.
One of the most obvious and effective ways to improve employee engagement is to help trainees see the connection between the training and its relation to their on-the-job responsibilities. How will this make you a more effective employee? How will this help you do your job better? How can this help your career development?
1. Reviewing the Relevance of Your Training Offerings
Unfortunately, many training programs are perceived as boring and worthless because they actually are. Maybe the trainers aren’t up to the task or the material is outdated or irrelevant. If your employees are sharp, they’ll quickly see through half-hearted, poorly conceived training programs.
So, to keep training relevant, it’s important to regularly review training objectives, training materials, trainers, and the overall execution of the training program to ensure it provides value. If it doesn’t, or if its value is marginal, you’re simply giving lip service to the idea of training and wasting time and resources.
The first and most important step in helping employees see the relevance of a training program is to actually make it relevant.
2. Consider Role-Playing to Bring Training to Life
The idea of role-playing at work—pretending to go through a work-like scenario in front of fellow trainees—might make some people cringe. But role-playing can be an effective way to generate engagement, especially when compared with scrolling through a slideshow or watching videos.
Stephen Hensley, President of Hensley Consulting, LLC, uses role-playing when training sales staff. “I’ll use a specific scenario referencing telesales,” he says. “When conducting training, it’s important to utilize role plays. Most leaders get this wrong as it seems generic or fake. When you conduct the role play, you must create the same environment that the agent will be in.”
Hensley offers some tips for conducting such role-plays:
- In a telesales scenario, the agents shouldn’t see each other during the role-play.
- Set up tools salespeople will be accessing on their computer monitors exactly in the way they will be utilized.
- If scripts are used, then use the scripts in the role-play scenario.
- Use actual situations that trainees can relate to.
- Provide real-time feedback from the role-play, with all members observing.
While some employees may balk at role-playing, making these scenarios as relevant as possible will help them see the value of the exercise.
3. Leverage the Impact of Personal Experiences
A great way to make training relevant to real-world experiences is for trainers to describe situations in which they used the skills they’re teaching in real life.
This could be in any position at any organization, but it would be more relatable if the trainer could provide examples of situations when the skills were used at the company where the trainees work or even in their job function.
A good personal experience should:
- Establish a familiar and relatable situation.
- Set the stage for a problem or conflict.
- Describe the training principle.
- Explain how applying the principle to the situation resulted in a positive outcome.
“Several years ago, I was also working as a sales representative here at ABC Company, selling this software. I was providing a product demonstration on-site with a prospective customer, demonstrating the unique functionality ABC had worked hard to implement. The tool was working flawlessly, but I could tell the audience wasn’t engaged.
Instead of focusing on the value to the customer, I was focusing on the functionality of the product—while that might be important to us, potential customers want to know how our tools can make their lives easier. I shifted focus and asked some of the attendees what challenges they were currently experiencing.
One woman said it took her almost an entire day to reconcile accounts payable at the end of each month. I showed how our tool could automate this process and completed it in a matter of minutes and even send out a report automatically to her managers. Everyone seemed impressed with the time saving potential.”
Note that the personal experience doesn’t necessarily have to have had a positive outcome. It could also be an example of something that went poorly because a training principle wasn’t followed.
4. Consider Bringing in Guest Speakers
Not every trainer is going to have personal experiences of his or her own that are relevant to the trainees. Additionally, trainers might not always carry a lot of personal clout and influence within the organization. In this case, it can be very effective to have leaders and senior staff within the organization relay their personal experiences in applying the training concepts.
For example, have the head of operations come in and describe how she employed Six Sigma strategies to reduce defects by 50% within a 6-month period by doing X, Y, and Z after joining the organization and hearing customers regularly complaining about product defects.
Guest speakers can discuss directly relevant applications of training principles that the trainer may not be able to; they also help generate buy-in from trainees by showcasing how senior staff have used those principles and how they contributed to their success.
Many employees perceive training as tedious and boring—and that may sometimes be the case. Therefore, it’s crucial for organizations to find ways to effectively engage their trainees to help them see the value of the training. A good way to do this is by demonstrating how this training will enhance their performance and advance their careers.
Making it real really matters.
Learn about more techniques and strategies to make your training resonate at Workforce L&D 2019. This event will be held in conjunction with HR Comply and RecruitCon. Check out the larger event HR World, for more information or to register today!