Hiring ads today have come a long way from Help wanted!. Companies looking for new employees need to focus not only on what they want from a new hire, but they also have to showcase the position they offer: present some history facts of the company, its goals for the coming years, fringe benefits, training plans, social responsibility actions, and so on.
Why? Because money is no longer the sole trigger for applying for a new job. People looking for a new job want to develop their careers, improve themselves, and generally get satisfaction and acknowledgement from the work they do.
The company training plan is no longer regarded as an extra bonus but as a basic offer element. People want to be trained. With the right training, they can specialize in any field, regardless of what their college major was. Plus, employees need to be challenged at work, at least from time to time. They no longer stay 20 years within one single company because they always want to learn more and develop.
Companies that understand this often choose to hire less experienced candidates and mold them to their specific organizational needs. So the role of the L&D department and the development of great training programs are truly important for the success of the company.
The modern learner
Recruiting and hiring new employees that are eager to learn is not everything a business organization needs to be successful. Aside from getting trained, employees need to be engaged into the whole learning process. Otherwise, training will be a waste of time and money.
So how do you engage the modern learner, which has little or not at all time and patience to sit down in a conference room and listen to a trainer for three hours?
First, allow me to expand on what I think the idea of "the modern learner" stands for:
- The modern learner is used to having a wide variety of information at his/her fingertips, and wants various learning methods to choose from;
- The ever-changing market and business environment forces the modern learner to keep up-to-date by constantly training and learning how to solve work problems more effectively;
- The timing of training is important for the modern learner, and they want the right piece of information just when they most need it — not three months before, nor a day later;
- The modern learner places less value on a training certificate and more on the actual knowledge they get after attending a training course.
Engaging the modern learner in training programs
Now that we're clearer about the new-age learners, let’s go to what learning and development departments can do about getting them engaged into the learning process and make the most out of the training session:
- Go on demand. Training and learning doesn’t happen just in a classic training setting, on Wednesdays at 9 AM sharp. Now it needs to be accessible anytime, anywhere. Make it available on all devices, online and offline. Your employees will learn better at their own pace and time. Business LMSs have plenty of features to offer when it comes to e-learning and online training.
- Keep it short. A lengthy and information abundant training session is OK only if you just want to tick the n training sessions box at the end of the year. But if you want your employees to actually learn, and especially learn the right thing at the right time, focus on micro learning. Offer small bits of information that can be assimilated easily and put into practice right away. A short piece of training material a day (e.g. a five minutes video) will be just right; it will neither overwhelm the learner nor make him lose interest. After all, we are living in the era of decreasing attention span and increasing distractions.
- Make it personal. Learners tend to get more involved and enjoy the learning experience a lot more when they feel their needs are met. All the adaptive learning techniques are just waiting to be used. Employees all learn in different ways and come with such different packages of prior knowledge, that is practically impossible to create a training course that “fits all sizes”. Personalized learning paths allow you to set a track for each learner depending on his/her level of understanding and prior acquired skills.
- Nothing beats interaction. Studies show that more than 90% of the information from a course is forgotten within a month from the training. Retention rates improve when learners get to answer questions, make choices or design a solution during the course, and not just sit quietly in a chair. Employees need to participate in training courses in an active way: raise/answer questions, solve tasks, debate, argue. They need to put their mind to work and test the new knowledge. In the case of online courses, don’t be shy and use the debate, forums, and group discussion features. Most learners welcome the opportunity to be involved in the course and share their job experiences.
- Create a resource area for future references. Remember that the modern learner considers training an ongoing activity. If you want employees to like your courses and want to know more, create a space where you can share information, arrange web resources or documents by topics, and encourage your learners to contribute. They will love to pitch in and be more stimulated to look up for more resources related to the object of training. Learning management systems offer features such as e-portfolios, resource area or libraries, where you can put relevant training materials for everyone to access.
- Make it fun. Training doesn’t have to be boring. Let me rephrase that: training MUST NOT be boring. It should be fun and challenging. It’s a bit hard to offer mugs as prizes in an online environment, but let the games begin. Stars, points, badges, titles, virtual trophies... gamification is the talk of the town. We are all kids inside and we still enjoy competing. With a little help from an instructional designer, any training can turn into a tournament.
It might seem very unconventional what I just showcased above, but keep in mind that we are living in a time where conventional means boring, outdated, restrictive and limited. So do try to keep up with the new breed of employees hungry for learning — everything and everywhere.