Blog Post

How to turn training into engaging learning experiences

Matan Berkowitz

Editorial Manager at Cornerstone OnDemand

Every couple of weeks I’ll hear from a friend, family member or former coworker who’s in the middle of a training they know I worked on.

Sometimes I get an excited, “Is this you?!” text message, and sometimes it's more of a “Where can I learn more about this?” question. Once in a while, I'll get an email with a screenshot asking, “What’s the answer to this quiz question?”

But no matter what they initially say about their training, I’ve found that one piece of feedback is universal: They all say the best learning experiences were team experiences.

Of course, that makes sense. Organizations and teams with strong organizational learning cultures would expect to see more learning engagement and better learning outcomes.

When you create shared learning experiences among your employees, you make the training more valuable and help people connect with their teams. And the more your people enjoy training and working on their growth the more likely they are to continue to work and expand their skills with your organization. Team chemistry leads to more personal and career growth which leads to more success for your people and organizations.

The question is: How do you build that experience deliberately? We’ve got a few strategies to help you get started or to help you strengthen your existing learning engagement efforts.

Make it personal

Too often, we take the easy path of assigning training to employees and letting our software take care of the notifications and reminders. We set up and assign the training, then let the technology do the rest while we move on.

To get your employees engaged, it helps to deliberately bring attention to what you’re doing. Send out an email that doesn’t just tell employees what they have to do, but that also explains why it’s important by sharing why you think it’ll be valuable for everyone. Have you found value in it yourself? What do you expect people will get from it?

You can go beyond email, too. If you’re in an office, put up signs or posters that celebrate what you’re doing. If you’re remote, you can post about it in your company’s communication channels.

Create group activities

Even if employees watch content on their own, training can still be a collective experience. Organize specific activities that invite employees to share what they’ve learned. This can help everyone process the experience together, and uncover insights that some people may not have gleaned themselves their first time through.

Or maybe try facilitating a discussion that helps people reflect on some of the more challenging concepts in the training. For example, after launching the training "Inclusive Management," you might bring a group of managers together to share ideas about how everyone can adopt new inclusive behaviors in your workplace.

These group activities can be fun, too.

After training around say, learning presentation skills, you can invite people to play a game of PowerPoint Karaoke that helps employees get experience speaking to larger groups in a low-stakes, fun way. Or you can create something more like a book club — a less formal gathering for people to have an open discussion about the content they just consumed.

Follow up

Even after your employees have gone through the content and participated in a group activity, there are still more ways to engage them in the collective learning experience.

Keep the momentum going by following up — perhaps you can set up a team meeting where you share something you learned when going through the training yourself. Or you can reach out to employees individually and let them know how their reflections impacted you.

Even a few weeks after your people complete the training, you can invite them to share how the learning later impacted their work.

Continue the journey

Chances are you’ll want to launch another training initiative not too long after you finish the current one. Even if the topics are drastically different you can still connect what you’ve learned to the next training initiative.

Say your team just finished unconscious bias training and you’re about to launch a new initiative around Creativity. Explain how some of the skills and concepts they’ve learned may be useful going forward. Perhaps the skills of reflection, keeping an open mind, and rethinking assumptions can help spur creative work. Make your team’s learning initiatives into a continuous journey, so that they see the increasing value of participating and stay engaged.

Keeping your people engaged

If I’m being honest, in some cases where I hear from those friends about their learning experiences, it seems to me that the connection to their coworkers matters as much as, if not more than, the content itself.

They might complete the training with a new skill or mindset, but they certainly walk away feeling closer to their coworkers and engaged in their jobs. Especially now, when finding those moments of connection outside of standard meetings can be so challenging, creating these shared learning experiences and turning them into a continuous journey that engages all employees is even more rewarding and valuable.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to increase employee engagement around your training initiatives, check out Cornerstone’s Activation Materials. These include email templates, posters, activities and discussion guides that anyone can use to help their employees transfer what they learn to their work. Below is an example of Activation Materials for Grovo’s Unconscious Bias program.

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