According to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workforce, 61% of workers are not motivated at their jobs and do not feel engaged with their work. (Engagement on the job could represent job satisfaction, emotional investment in the cause, willingness to invest discretionary effort, or advocating for the company as a good place to work, amongst other traits.) Gallup has also noted that workers who are engaged are up to 21% more productive in their jobs – and engagement tends to be better metric than worker happiness when it comes to boosting productivity.
So how to get your learners engaged with your organization? And how can structuring your training content help achieve in this goal?
Create a Feeling of Mastery
One way to help learners feel more engaged in learning itself is by creating a feeling of mastery for the learner. Mastery, in short, is the feeling of competence and the ability to improve. Ayla Lewis, Chief Operating Officer at Happy Brain Science, shared some tips to increase a learner’s feeling of mastery of a subject:
“One way to increase a learner feeling mastery of a subject is to reinforce what they’ve learned throughout the day. Mastery comes from those real-life opportunities to apply knowledge – and thereby learn and grow.” Increase the opportunity for application of training course content, both in the course itself and in performing the work. In a recent study BlueVolt conducted with online learners, 56% of respondents felt frequent “knowledge checks” throughout a course was beneficial to their learning style.
Another way to increase mastery is to ensure the training content is at the right level for your learners. Engagement cannot happen if training is too easy or too hard. The idea is to create training that is just on the edge of the learner’s knowledge. Position new concepts by building on ideas that your learners already know. This approach makes it easier for people to understand, remember, and get engaged with the training.
Learners need support. Lewis recommends employing the SCARF model, or addressing the five social needs of:
According to David Rock, the researcher who created this model, if any of these needs are in danger the employee is unable to learn new concepts. Lewis notes, “Whenever these needs are threatened, our brain shrinks. We go into flight, fight, or freeze mode. It can be incredibly difficult to learn, remember, feel motivated, be engaged or even care about what you’re doing. Once learners are engaged, as managers, leaders, trainers, or instructional designers it is especially important that you find ways to monitor whether your learners are receiving SCARF. If someone is disengaged, or exhibits a lack of motivation, it could be because one or more of the SCARF needs are being threatened.” (If you are interested in increasing your learner’s sense of SCARF specifically, see this post for some actionable tactics.)
The easiest way to approach this is to ask: is there a way to get a moment of mindfulness into an online training course? “Even if you have someone just pause and reflect on one point made during the course, this is shifting their consciousness into a more mindful state. This small moment can do so much to put someone in a more focused frame of mind” says Lewis. Mindfulness can be more structured though. Ask the learner to reflect on the lesson and have them write down what are the first steps they will take to apply the learning. This prepares the brain to utilize all the information sitting in working memory – i.e., what the learner has just learned. The brain transitions this information from working memory to long term memory. Strengthening that knowledge will aid the learner recall the information when application is needed.