Learner engagement remains a challenge for organisation leaders and talent developers. In LinkedIn Learning’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, the No. 2 focus area for Talent Development was: Increase engagement with learning programmes.
With today’s technology advances and better awareness of learning science, is there really any excuse for poor learner engagement?
Like any stubborn nut to crack, the answer lies somewhere in the results of an honest evaluation. It’s important to understand the barriers to learning that might exist; be they part of a culture, the technology or the sheer lack of useful resources. A multi-pronged approach to engaging learners is usually the most effective. Luckily there are lots of things that can be done.
What is learner engagement?
Learner engagement (different to general employee engagement) relates specifically to the level of investment that employees have in their learning activities. This psychological investment in learning is demonstrated by the quality of learning sessions taken and the amount of interaction with resources and/or people to learn from, such as trainers, team leaders or peers.
Engagement can happen on different levels:
- Cognitive - making active efforts to learn and remember
- Behavioural - physically taking part or completing activities
- Emotional - feeling connected and personally invested in activities
In the past, organisations had only completion rates in an LMS to indicate learner engagement (behavioural engagement). However, we know now that tick boxes in an LMS is no proof of meaningful engagement. It’s the quality and quantity of engagement, along with data that demonstrates the impact of high active engagement on performance, that are much more important and useful success metrics.
Why is learner engagement important?
High learner engagement is important for several reasons.
Firstly, learning resources come at a cost; whether it’s time, platform technology or content. In order to justify these costs and the time spent on sourcing and developing a solution, learners must feel motivated to seek out the learning opportunities afforded to them. The dictum, “If you build it, they will come” simply doesn’t apply. Engaging the online learner will prove critical to ROTI (return of training investment).
Secondly, quality learner engagement is evidenced in a vibrant and healthy culture of learning. The benefits of a high impact learning culture are immense. This culture could be the difference between flat growth and pressure on skill sets, and a workforce that can adapt and innovate with industry needs to drive profits.
Other reasons become obvious: Improved communication between employees as they share their knowledge; the ability for L&D to promote learning (and the L&D function) as a key driver to business success; much-improved talent management due to a flexible growth mindset among employees.
Finding ways to promote learner engagement will create wins for both the employee and the business.
How to improve learner engagement
Developing some learner engagement strategies will put some structure on your efforts - that multi-pronged approach that’s needed. Here are some ideas:
- Market the learning
Do your learners know that learning content exists for their consumption? Is it clear what’s available that’s relevant to them and to job roles?
- Remove (or at least reduce) the technical barriers
Consider the overall learning experience - Is the learning accessible? Do you need a mobile strategy? Can the content be found easily? Is the learning process for your employees an easy one to follow?
- Ensure the real learning objectives are being met
Is course content, or learning resources, relevant to job roles - a key motivator for learner engagement. Application of information to real-life challenges will resonate with learners.
- Treat your employees as modern adults
Are you offering quality learning resources with opportunity for self-direction? Issues related to attention span become irrelevant when learners are actively engaged in their own learning. Facilitate active learning where learners can take charge of their own learning path. You can provide signposting along the way.
- Understand time pressures and make it easy
According to the LinkedIn Learning report, “the biggest problem for talent developers is that employees don’t make the time.” Employees might argue they simply can’t make the time. So the challenge becomes about finding innovative ways to deliver training that’s not as time intensive and that fits into busy schedules. Luckily such solutions exist! This can help change the mindset that learning is a luxury that’s squeezed in when time allows, but rather a fundamental key behaviour to the growth of an organisation.
- Share and communicate
Making learning social could be the key to sustaining improvements to learner engagement. By encouraging the sharing of knowledge, learning initiatives are more likely to stay in focus and high on people’s priority list.
- Update, improve and evolve
By measuring learner engagement, and all the things are working well in building a strong learning culture, you can update content, improve the learning experience, increase learning opportunities and continue to grow the L&D function as one that can respond to business needs.
How to measure learner engagement
So if LMS tick boxes aren’t where it’s at, how is learner engagement measured?
The consequences of learner engagement can be assessed (see the Kirkpatrick evaluation model) through simple surveys. It’s possible to build internal case studies to show the results of such feedback, linking it to formal assessment results and performance reviews.
The amount of learning that employees access of their own accord is another indicator of their level of engagement.
Modern learner platforms can now provide much more granular data on the levels of learner engagement. In addition, custom dashboards can be generated that directly link learner engagement levels to competencies, proficiencies and other organisation-specific measurements of success.
Modern proficiency data: Learner confidence VS Accuracy of response
L&D can now provide leadership teams with accurate data on how learner engagement directly impacts revenue. The LinkedIn Learning report claims that “Increased employee engagement is one of the top 5 ways that Talent Developers demonstrate the success of learning.” - hardly any wonder. The ability to demonstrate a correlation between learner engagement and business KPIs becomes a game-changer in the world of Learning & Development.
(By the way, we didn’t ignore the No. 1 focus area for Talent Development in LinkedIn Learning’s report: Identify and assess skills gaps. You can read more on that here).
Take a look at this video about Verify - a solution that offers:
- An easily-accessible mobile experience
- Employee-specific content delivered in short 2-min interventions
- Advanced analytics for proof of ROI