4 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement in Learning and Development

Unfortunately, learning and development professionals often struggle with employee engagement. Here are four ways to boost employee engagement in L&D.

The workforce is evolving and becoming more competitive for both talent and businesses. Remote and hybrid teams, rising technology complexity, digital transformation, and non-traditional work models create more diverse and physically distanced workforces.

Faced with the Great Resignation and the ongoing labor shortage, employers should consider a stronger focus on retaining and reskilling talent instead of always looking to attract. In the face of emerging technology, knowledge has a shorter shelf life, so a vibrant workforce willing to learn and grow is paramount.

In addition, employees want to invest in a company that invests in them with learning and development (L&D). According to a 2021 Gallup survey, employees are looking for skills training and robust L&D programs as perks when they evaluate job opportunities. Employees not only want to develop essential skills for their current roles but for future opportunities they’re striving toward.

Unfortunately, L&D professionals often struggle with employee engagement. It’s not enough to have an L&D program – it has to be effective. All the advanced learning tools and resources may not be enough to keep employees engaged with learning opportunities.

Current Challenges to L&D Efforts

The Great Resignation led to many challenges for employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,4 million employees in the U.S. quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations peaked in April and have remained high in the following months.

On top of that, consumer demand has increased the pressure on businesses. With fewer workers and more work, there’s not enough time to devote to employee learning and development efforts.

The pandemic and post-pandemic periods brought another change – remote and hybrid teams. While this is excellent for productivity and work-life balance, it creates obstacles for in-person workshops. With employees working from home and often on flexible schedules, it’s challenging to coordinate a time for in-person training that works for everyone.

And the biggest challenge, which existed long before the pandemic, is low employee engagement. Employees may become frustrated and disengaged from learning programs because of outdated content, outdated training methodologies, or a lack of student interactivity. This translates to low enthusiasm, weak participation, and wasted time and resources.

4 Ways to Boost Engagement in L&D

Role Model a Passion for L&D at the Highest Ranks

Engagement begins long before the content is consumed. If the highest ranks and critical stakeholders aren’t on board with the L&D program, getting employees excited and engaged is an ongoing battle.

For an L&D program to succeed with widespread employee engagement, highly ranked managers and stakeholders must set the tone. As role models, these stakeholders can inspire employees by taking an active and enthusiastic role in their learning experience and showing what a life-long dedication to learning looks like at senior levels.

While stakeholders may not always see the immediate benefits and the value it offers for their teams, a culture of L&D and continuing education can drive improved employee motivation and productivity, better employee retention, and integrated culture of long-term learning and growth, especially when executives show their support.

Gamify L&D Initiatives

Gamified training is an emerging trend among L&D professionals that address the ineffectiveness of existing training programs. Most traditional programs rely on in-person learning in a room with a lecture, video presentations with lessons, or a combination of text, image, and video content in learning modules.

These traditional methods don’t address the individual learning needs of different generations. Not to mention that traditional learning methods may become overused and outdated, but gamified training has been shown to improve the positive impact of learning experiences.

Gamification isn’t just a trend – it’s backed by science. Gamifying a learning program releases feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin, affecting rewards-based learning and mood levels.

Gamification is also conducive to learning because it taps into intrinsic and extrinsic learning motivations using game mechanics, holding the attention and focus of the teaching. Modeled after video-game psychology, this learning method uses rewards and leaderboards to mimic the same enjoyment gamers experience in a learning environment.

For the business, gamification can offer a real-time assessment. These learning programs use game mechanics like scores and leaderboards, which provide a track for a learner’s performance. This not only helps to tailor the program to the learner’s distinct style of learning but helps stakeholders and L&D professionals see the direct benefits of the program and their employees’ progress.

Offer Micro-Learning Programs

Micro-learning is becoming more and more prominent in corporate L&D settings. With the modern generation’s learning habits primarily consuming content in small bites, micro-learning can break up the content into easily digestible portions for better engagement and retention.

Most micro-learning programs are designed with the proper knowledge to help employees achieve goals. Through the program, the information is reiterated and relearned over and over, allowing it to stick. Not to mention, shorter bites of content offer time and workload flexibility for busy employees.

Up-Level Learning Technology

Technology won’t improve employee engagement with L&D programs, but it is essential. Businesses may use 19 types of tech in their L&D programs, but without a strategy, it’s not enough.

Digital learning is far more popular than traditional lectures, and experiential learning is gaining ground as a new trend. The physical experience of learning in a hands-on way can create an emotional connection with the material and fellow learners, deepening the understanding. Sometimes, this type of learning is subconscious since it occurs without awareness as the learners engage with the material and process.

With that, digital learning is an ideal supplement to reinforce experiential learning. Follow-up discussions, short quizzes, or similar “testing” methods can enhance the learning experience.

Technology is needed for effective L&D programs in the digital age, but it can be combined with other proven effective methods, especially with a multigenerational team. It’s essential to understand how the different generations prefer to learn and put effort into the technology and programs that will prove most effective.

Choosing the program needs to be strategic, too. The newest and hottest tech isn’t necessarily the best choice for your program – everything should be based on the data about the specific learners on your team. Collect qualitative and quantitative insights about the couple and their learning behaviors, such as surveys and data from the existing learning platform.

For example, does your team like video content or text content? Do they feel like the content contains new information, or is it primarily performative?

You can tailor the program and technology to suit all learners with personalized solutions. It’s more upfront work and investment, but it improves engagement and learning.

Moving Forward

As we move into the new normal and the continuing labor shortage, L&D will become a vital component of employee engagement and retention. L&D doesn’t have to be only about the employee – it should align with the business’s goals and objectives as an investment into talent and the company’s future.

Cecilia Gorman
Wildly addicted to all things leadership, Cecilia Gorman is a veteran of the advertising industry and the owner of Creative Talent Partners, a training consultancy that specializes in the development of rising managers and their teams. Whether it’s a team offsite, a manager workshop or through her online Manager Boot Camp course, Cecilia’s sole pursuit is adding value to growth-focused employees.