Better Learning & Learning Better: Maximizing Workplace Learner Engagement
How often do people in your workplace declare they simply didn’t find the time to complete assigned training?
While indifference to training can be the result of a number of factors, such as misaligned incentives or other environmental factors, it can also be a tell-tale sign of employee disengagement, especially when it’s accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm and low energy levels in the workplace. Ambivalent attitudes toward work and training are intertwined, and perhaps somewhat ironically, the latter poses the most obvious antidote to the former.
Performance management company Gallup identified two classifications of disengagement (non-engagement and active disengagement) in their 2013 report entitled the State of the Global Workplace, While the report found that levels of employee engagement varied significantly across regions, it also uncovered that, worldwide, 63% of employees were disengaged and 24% actively disengaged. As opposed to the actively disengaged who regularly complain and are openly negative about practices, disengaged workers can be difficult to spot. They are not hostile or disruptive. They turn up to work and go through the motions, but mentally, they’re not “present” and often they’re not working to the best of their ability. Despite the fact that their job satisfaction is faltering, they’re generally not inclined to do much about it (although they’ve often daydreamed about penning their resignation letter.) Perhaps most shockingly, the disengaged aren’t just those staff on an hourly wage – they can often be found higher up the ranks and even on the executive board.
Addressing employee needs
With well-established connections between employee engagement and customer ratings, employee satisfaction should be seen as a precursor to customer satisfaction; however, while customer retention programs and incentives abound, not nearly as much attention has been placed on employee engagement and loyalty. Disengagement behaviors are always to the detriment of the company, since employee dedication to the business values and company vision is necessary for the company to reach its full potential.
Individuals need to feel like they are valued; that they’re not simply a cog in a large machine going through the motions Monday through Friday. Where the hearts and minds of its people are not aligned with the business or where the business does not involve and consult its workforce, the company culture suffers. Potential is lost, and occasionally good members of staff are lost too.
According to Gallup’s 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis, which examined the results of 339 research studies spanning 230 independent organizations, business or work units with high levels of employee engagement outperform those with low levels of employee engagement, showing differences in several key measures of performance, including significantly higher profitability and significantly lower levels of turnover, absenteeism, and safety incidents.
Maximizing engagement through training
The challenge is clear: how do you reach out and re-engage members of your team who have quit internally but still turn up for work most days?
From “shop floor” workers not adhering to health and safety best practices through to senior management malaise, workplace disengagement is a phenomenon evident at each and every level within a corporation. With large swathes of modern workers disengaged at work, solutions that operate on each level within the organization need to be implemented.
An important contributor to employee engagement is evaluating the type and relevance of professional development available. Key to this is providing relevant instruction and ensuring employees are supported with the training, coaching, and feedback they need to be successful in their jobs. Learning and development (L&D) managers needs to ask themselves the following questions: Are our training programs maximizing employee engagement? Are we sure they are providing what our employees really need? Do our supports offer employees a path to their own future growth and success, as well as those of the organization? And have we involved them in finding out what they need?
Learning platforms and approaches that give learners greater control over their learning choices could also support increased engagement. This allows them to ”pull” down content and learning materials, “self-selecting” what they need at the time they need it, and enabling colleagues to connect through collaborative learning experiences. This could form the beginnings of a revitalized approach to training that maximizes engagement.
For companies, retaining their most valuable capital – their people – doesn’t have to be difficult. Compiling data on what matters to learners and allowing them to provide feedback on potential solutions is a key point. How strongly the company values employee education and how well it designs and tailors its training programs are important factors in workforce engagement.