L&D has an engagement problem. This is despite the promising findings from the 2022 Linkedin Workplace Learning report where 62% agree that L&D is focused on rebuilding or reshaping their organisation in 2022 and nearly half of L&D professionals expect their budgets to increase this year.
This year’s LPI L&D Dashboard reveals that ‘building an organisational learning culture’ is the number one challenge for L&D professionals today. It reports that “even with the most modern learning systems in place, if the people are not engaged enough to use them, performance will suffer.”
The old adage, “build it and they will come”, therefore simply doesn’t ring true in the context of corporate learning – no matter how impressive your technology stack. If the culture doesn’t promote continuous learning and people fail to see it as a worthwhile investment of their time, the usage metrics for your learning system will remain low, along with poor engagement rates.
Here are five reasons you may be facing a lack of learner engagement in your organisation – and what you can do to resolve them.
1. Lack of awareness of learning opportunities
You can’t start building engagement until you’ve first established awareness, so make this your starting point.
Do your employees see learning as a disruption to their daily work rather than an opportunity to open doors in their professional lives? Are they even aware of the relevant learning opportunities available at all?
Ultimately, you want people to ‘buy’ into L&D – and if there’s one department that knows how to reach, engage and influence people to ‘buy’ something, it’s marketing. Yet, according to the 2022 LPI L&D Dashboard, ‘marketing and communications’ was listed as one of the five weakest skills for L&D professionals today.
You can’t communicate effectively with your audience until you fully understand who they are and what they want. Today, people want and expect communications that are timely, personalised and relevant (e.g. you wouldn’t push communications about a new sales course to your team of software testers).
In marketing, you would carry out your research by conducting surveys and questionnaires, interviewing individuals, facilitating focus groups, and examining secondary data such as official figures, market share and competitor performance. Create a set of learner personas specifying people’s pain points, motivations and goals. These will inform how you (and your marketing team) will communicate learning as a solution.
Summarise your target audience, objectives and timeline for promoting your learning programmes, then share it with your marketing team. Just a one-page summary will help them get a clear idea of how they can best work with you to raise awareness so you can then work to maximise engagement.
You’ll also want to think about what channels to use to reach them – again, your marketing team will be able to help gather insights on what internal marketing channels are best. You can always test different methods to find the most effective communications mix.
It’s about reaching the right people, with the right messages, at the right time.
2. Employees don’t have time for learning
Today’s learners no longer expect – nor have time for – formal, face-to-face training as the only way to learn. With the rise in hybrid and remote learning, a survey by Hays has revealed that 52% of people reported working longer hours when working remotely than before the pandemic. With growing to-do lists and increased pressure, employees need learning that’s accessible and available in the flow of work.
Offering the learning digitally allows users to complete the learning in their own time without the constraints of day-to-day working patterns. Every learner is different, and while some may find they learn best late at night, others may absorb more information early in the morning, such as on their daily commute. Enabling 24/7 access to the learning via technology allows the learner to digest on-demand, bite-sized chunks of learning at their own pace, in their own time and when they’re feeling most motivated to learn.
Does your learning technology support single sign-on (SSO), reducing the time spent hunting for passwords or creating new usernames? SSO gives your learners to use one main identity across all the technologies they use, making the learning easy to access.
Think about the tools your teams are currently using; if your sales team is using Salesforce, can you provide them access to helpful learning resources through integration with your learning system as they work? Recently, Thinqi has been continuing to extend its integrations with communications tools such as Slack. By using standards-driven approaches, Thinqi's smarter learning system can now support a range of Slack commands, whether this is providing updates to teams, assessing team competencies, or prompting users to log in with a click. The importance of learning in the flow of work is important for busy workers, which is why Thinqi can now course registrations via Slack to relevant teams to support cohort-based learning. This ensures the right learning material reaches learners at the right time.
3. Lack of personalisation
The more relevant and personalised the learning recommendations are, the more engaged people will be. Present them with a wealth of uncurated content on every possible topic and your learners will log out faster than you can say ‘cognitive overload’.
Curation is the process of selecting, organising and managing a collection of items – in this case, your learning content. It involves you aggregating the relevant content according to your strategy and sharing it with the learner. The beauty of this is that it saves you hours spent creating all the right content from scratch – instead, you can aggregate ready-made resources from multiple channels and align them with your curriculum. This isn’t about reinventing the wheel or overcomplicating things. Curation is all about keeping it simple, engaging and on-topic.
Today’s learning systems such as Thinqi allow you to easily curate content and will recommend related resources depending on the learner’s interests, skills and/or job role as part of a personalised learning pathway. Using comprehensive reporting tools, you can gauge what types of content are driving engagement and link with Google Analytics to help you optimise your top-performing content.
4. Fear of failure
Fear of failure may have been instilled in us as children by a grade-driven academic environment. This in turn can make us more risk-averse for fear of looking foolish or damaging our professional reputation as adults. We might also experience a primal pressure to conform to a group majority, which does not necessarily lend itself to ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking.
However, the most successful people actively prepare to make mistakes as part of the learning process. Learning opportunities need to contain safe spaces to make mistakes before the learning is applied to people’s day-to-day work.
Consider how you can build positive reinforcement into your training and development sessions or materials. For example, in Thinqi, you can easily provide frequent feedback and praise throughout formative and summative assessments to prompt learners to keep going. Summative assessments such as unmarked quizzes provide a safe space for learners to practice, make mistakes and learn before attempting more formal assessments.
Present failure in a positive light and give people the freedom and encouragement to experiment. Only through making mistakes in the first place can we learn from them.
5. Lack of support
In our blog post ‘Introducing constructivism and the journey of discovery’, we explored how a constructivist approach sees learners as active participants in their learning, constructing their own understanding and knowledge through experience and reflection.
However, although constructivism places an emphasis on learner autonomy or ‘learner-led’ experiences, this doesn’t mean that learners should simply be left to their own devices. Jerome Bruner (1961) emphasised the impact of others on learners as they develop their knowledge and skills, which means he’s often associated with a branch of constructivism known as ‘social constructivism’. He referred to support from others as ‘scaffolding’. Scaffolding learning – for example, providing useful information or encouraging learners to work in groups rather than alone – helps guide learners when necessary while giving them the freedom to create understanding for themselves.
The challenge of independent e-learning is isolation, so a learning system that gives its users 24/7 access to a community of peers and coaches enables them to engage by sharing, reflecting and discussing learning material collectively.
Engaged employees play a crucial part in the success and growth of an organisation. Ed O’Boyle, Global Practice Leader at Gallup, believes that an employee who is highly engaged isn’t “someone who just shows up and fills a seat; they are enthusiastic about coming to work, they go above and beyond expectations, and they find meaning in what they do.”
Get to know your people. Identify their problems, offer realistic solutions and be their biggest supporters throughout the learning journey – then watch learning in your organisation flourish.