Engagement to training content is one of the costliest challenges employers face. In 2013, Gallup found that of the 70 percent of American workers were not reaching their full potential, 18 percent were actively disengaged with their jobs, costing businesses up to $450–550 billion in lost productivity. How can you protect your company from those costs?
You can start by reexamining how you train your employees. According to gotoHR, “40 percent of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year.” Additionally, “training is a retention tool, instilling loyalty and commitment from good workers. Staff looking for the next challenge will be more likely to stay if you offer ways for them to learn and grow while at your company,” the article states.
Here are four ways you can improve the way you train and thereby boost your employee engagement:
Any college student can tell you that rereading the entire textbook the night before the final is a waste of time. But the most successful students are the ones who test/quiz themselves before the professor gets the chance. It works the same in business. You can read training material, but it isn’t nearly as effective as quizzing yourself on it. “Anything that creates active learning—generating understanding on your own—is very effective in retention,” says psychologist Mark McDaniel. “It basically means the learner becomes more involved and more engaged, and less passive.”
There are a lot of very simple and effective methods for quizzing on material that can be applied in the workplace. Employers can create simple quizzes to distribute to employees before or after a training session. Even tradeshow competitions are great ways to get employees engaged with training content...and their job.
Many people focus on constant repetition, i.e., sitting down and repeating the same line or statistic again and again until they think they’ve got it. In a school setting this is called Mass Practice. However, memory experts have found that it actually works better to practice through a method called “spaced repetition.” This process involves taking in the initial information and then waiting before trying to repeat, rather than immediately. The objective is to recall the information right when you might have forgotten it, which works to cement it even more firmly in your mind. Think of it as slipping off the pools edge, then catching yourself. Next time you will remember that the pool’s edge can be treacherous.
When trying to apply spaced repetition, there isn’t one particular optimal time between repeats; it depends on how much information you’re trying to learn and how long you want to remember it. As a business, you’ll need to discover what that period of time is for your training needs. It could be once a day, three times a week, or once a month. At Trivie, we recommend 3 days after an initial training, then 10 days, then 21 days. We have seen our entire network of clients make knowledge retention gains of 28.9% (on average).
As the saying goes, one of the best ways to ensure that you’ve learned something is to teach it to someone else. It works on a similar level to spaced repetition and self-quizzing. Explaining a concept to others requires you to think through the process you’re explaining and identify the simplest (and best) way to explain it. The more you do it—the more you engage with the material—the more you refine your own understanding of what you’re teaching.
This is a great method for employers, too! If you can train your employees in the processes they’re learning, you will know them well enough to help. Additionally, your employees can train each other on some concepts, giving them a chance to collaborate and to improve their collective understanding of the training material. This sort of technique is easily applicable in training sessions and during regular work time.
“Traditionally, we think of incentives as a payment or concession to stimulate greater output or investment,” says Dean Miles, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. “Instead, define incentives as a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something again and again.”
There are a lot of great ways to do this. According to Miles, the best incentives involve positive recognition. Giving recognition during training assures employees that their efforts to be motivated and engaged aren’t going unnoticed, and encourages them to keep it up. Another key is leading by example and demonstrating the values you hope your employees will have. For something that merges training and incentives directly, consider implementing a training reinforcement system, allowing you to manage training material and reward employees at the same time. As the #1 (consumer) trivia app on the Apple App Store in 2013, we found that the social aspects of leaderboards, social currency like tokens and badges, along with chat and alias personalities (such as unlocking new avatars) were the preferred game mechanics to incentivize engagement. Since most social gamers are in their 40’s, and most millennials live on their phones, in the corporate training world these techniques can be just as effective.
These four simple recommendations and concepts can dramatically boost engagement in any corporate training program, and in turn, quantifiably impact productivity.