Improving employee engagement through training

Employee engagement: it’s about more than just happy staff. Employee engagement is the key to overall business success and one of the most important indicators for the health of a company. It’s no surprise that it is considered one of the top challenges in the modern day by almost 40% of all corporations.
 
But forget, for a moment, ideas about 4-day weeks or any of the myriad methods businesses are turning to in order to get more engagement out of their employees. Instead, consider a modernized method for stimulating your workforce: the right training with the right platform.

What is employee engagement?

Put simply, employee engagement is how connected, passionate and dedicated a staff member considers themselves in regards to their workplace. However, true employee engagement is less common than you might think. According to recent research from Gallup, only about 32 percent of Americans are considered ‘engaged’ with their work - and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Worldwide, only 13 percent of people working for organizations were recorded as engaged.

That means that only about 1 in 10 global workers perform their duties with passion, innovation, and connection with the company. Meanwhile, the rest of the staff are either ‘disengaged’ (putting in the hours, but not the effort or energy) or ‘actively disengaged’ (intentionally undermining the company and their coworkers). Even worse, Gallup also revealed that these numbers have barely changed since 2006. Employee engagement (or lack thereof) hasn’t only just become a serious problem, it has been one for years, and the best efforts of businesses have done little to move the needle.

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The importance of employee engagement

Studies have shown that workplaces with an engaged workforce perform significantly better than their disengaged peers across a variety of measures, including:

  • Customer ratings (10 percent higher)

  • Profitability (22 percent higher)

  • Productivity (21 percent higher)

  • Staff turnover (up to 65 percent lower)

  • Shrinkage (28 percent lower)

  • Absenteeism (37 percent lower)

  • Safety incidents (48 percent lower)

  • Quality defects (41 percent lower)

 

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What effect does training have on employee engagement?

Companies are looking for proactive solutions to improve engagement as they become aware of their disengaged workforce. Better pay, better benefits, better work environments are all certainly effective in their own right, but too many businesses are ignoring the second-most significant driver of employee engagement, according to research from Dr Bob Nelson, author of 1,001 Ways To Engage Your Employees: career development.

Staff want to feel like they’re progressing in their career, and that translates to opportunities for growth and appropriate upskilling. Workers who are offered and participate in business-provided training also feel more engaged with the business that offers it.

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Training results in:

  • Greater confidence

  • A feeling of preparedness

  • A feeling of safety (especially in high-consequence industries)

  • Greater alignment with the business

  • Greater connection with the work

  • Greater productivity in the workplace
  • Increased feelings of value

Compare these outcomes to the traits that describe an ‘engaged worker’: it checks every box. Whether it’s a new staff member who needs onboarding or an experienced worker who wants to grow, the right training programme offered in the right context at the right time shows a willingness to invest in the worker---and will result in the worker being more likely to invest in the business in return.

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How to improve employee engagement through training

Saying engagement is beneficial is one thing, but encouraging and developing it is another. Below, you’ll find some practical tips on what you can do to provide your engagement metrics through the right training.

Create a training program that is tailored to your workforce

Experience and Role

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Young or new staff members will need different training modules compared to older or existing members, both in content and in tone.
Young or new staff members will need different training modules compared to older or existing members, both in content and in tone. Forcing new staff members to go through an ‘experienced’ module will result in them being overwhelmed with information or losing out on the basics, while the opposite would end up covering topics the experienced staff already know. A back-end software developer will need different training compared to a retail worker, but so will a retail worker and a retail manager. Different roles and responsibilities require different training.
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Methods of Learning

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While there is some debate over whether different “learning styles” have an effect on how people absorb information, there is a lot of benefit to offering a wide variety of different learning methods. Videos, illustrations, written instructions, handouts, live demonstrations, scenario-based learning, simulations, discussion groups, job shadowing; there’s a huge variety of different ways to train people, and everyone will have their own preferred method. Offer a selection, and the trainees will be able to find the one that suits them.
While there is some debate over whether different “learning styles” have an effect on how people absorb information, there is a lot of benefit to offering a wide variety of different learning methods. Videos, illustrations, written instructions, handouts, live demonstrations, scenario-based learning, simulations, discussion groups, job shadowing; there’s a huge variety of different ways to train people, and everyone will have their own preferred method. Offer a selection, and the trainees will be able to find the one that suits them.
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Cultural Considerations

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Businesses are now working with a global workforce, with staff members coming from different cultures and countries, all of them with different codes of conduct and methods of interaction. Failing to consider the potential issues when those codes of conduct clash in training can result in a lack of learning at best and animosity between workers at worst. This also applies to differences in language: someone who may speak English as a second language is unlikely to fully benefit from training that uses unnecessarily advanced modes of speech.
Businesses are now working with a global workforce, with staff members coming from different cultures and countries, all of them with different codes of conduct and methods of interaction. Failing to consider the potential issues when those codes of conduct clash in training can result in a lack of learning at best and animosity between workers at worst. This also applies to differences in language: someone who may speak English as a second language is unlikely to fully benefit from training that uses unnecessarily advanced modes of speech.
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To train their staff, business leaders need to know their staff - specifically, how they will best learn information. A newly-graduated university student is going to learn quite differently (and need to learn different things) compared to a 20-year veteran of the industry.

If a business is unsure of what differences it needs to consider when providing a training program, the solution is simple: ask the employees. A common tactic is to write up a general training plan with the information the business leaders already have, and then spread that around the company and ask for feedback. Employees, as we’ve demonstrated, want to learn and they will certainly be willing to guide you where they want or need additional training.

 
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Best practice tips for tailoring your program

A generic training for everyone, outside of the bare basics of the business, is unlikely to be as effective as it could be. Smart organizations understand that personalizing training wherever practical results in more targeted learning and development programs that better retain staff, improve productivity and increase job satisfaction.

Efficiency is the holy grail in an environment where every saved dollar means additional capital to invest or reinvest elsewhere---and it’s clear that avoiding the costs of staff turnover and improving overall workforce effectiveness is the inevitable result of better-personalized training. Failing to do so and instead pushing out a generic training program is not only wasting money, but it is disrespectful to the workforce: every person has different needs according to their role and their personal traits.

Every employer has a responsibility to provide the right tools to their staff to complete their work in a manner that they can be proud of - and what could be a more important tool than the knowledge of how to perform their job effectively? What’s more, everybody learns in different ways and at different paces, a fact that systems like eLearning have built right into their core. Using a training system, no matter how personalized otherwise, that does not take this into account could result in staff being unable or unwilling to complete the training in the first place.

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What does it mean to be compliant?

While personalization is key to effective training, there are a few general guidelines that businesses should follow:

  • Make the training trackable. This will highlight where trainees are getting stuck, potentially indicating that the training module needs to be revisited or expanded upon.

  • Make the training understandable. This includes ensuring the language, format, instructions and any visuals used are clear in their purpose so as to avoid cognitive overload.

  • Get feedback from participants. While the tracking may indicate hotspots of difficulty, there is no better source of actionable training insights than the trainees themselves.

  • Train within a context. Theoretical training and practical application are two different things entirely. Where possible, use simulation and scenario training to ensure any new skills can be understood and used in the real world.

  • Recognize and reward high achievers. Something as simple as a certificate of achievement or a shoutout during a meeting could be an effective way to keep trainees motivated. Friendly competition is nearly always a good way to get more out of the training too.

What are effective training tools you can use for employee engagement?

Work training has been around since the dawn of business, so there are a lot of different methods available to the determined trainer. However, like all methodologies, some are better than others, and many can be used in tandem with one another.

But regardless of the route a business decides to take, the foundation of success remains the same: a strong platform that gives you the flexibility to provide the training your staff needs, when it needs it, in a relevant context and on the device that they choose.

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Finding the right training platform

While there are a lot of different training platforms available, there are a few features that are recommended regardless of your training goals:

  • Video. Having the opportunity for subject matter experts to demonstrate exactly what it is they are training is highly effective in communicating complex procedures.

  • Interactivity. Many people learn best by doing - theory can’t instill the same kind of confidence and competence that simulated or real-life practice can.

  • Easy content creation. Necessary updates to training must be as easy as possible, otherwise a business may fall behind on mandatory legislation changes or newer, more effective methodology. Platforms that enable quick and easy rewriting of training modules make this possible.

  • Paced learning. Not everyone learns at the same rate, and not everybody has the time to do an enormous amount of training all at once. Look for a platform that offers ‘bite-sized learning’.

  • Tracking. Data is necessary to improve training, and keeping track of people who are stuck on particular modules (and ensuring those who have indicated they’ve completed it have done so fully) is where that data comes from.

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In summary, training your staff kills a whole flock of birds with one stone. It doesn’t just develop skills and ensure competence and compliance, but it also ensures that your staff is armed with the knowledge they need to feel engaged with their work.

Training must be personalized and placed on the right platform to be effective. Keep an eye out for eLearning systems that include features that make it quick and easy to develop and disseminate training materials, but also enable you to make it personalized for your workforce.