When I first started as an education director, our company’s only training program was really routine and systems-focused. Employees used to groan and roll their eyes when I talked about it. People thought workplace education was a requirement — a chore — and über-boring. And it was.
The key to all workplace education success lies in knowing how to create practical, value-add education, delivered in an engaging way. Education shouldn’t ever be boring. To me, a boring class is a sign of a trainer who doesn’t fully understand the learning mission, and hasn’t put enough thought into winning employees over. The more we like something, the more effort and attention we give it. This is particularly true of workplace education.
At my company, we put the energy back into our education programs, and started having waiting lists of employees wanting into our programs. Here’s how.
Align Programs to Particular Learner Needs
We constantly surveyed our employees to better understand their workdays, and also to solicit information about the obstacles, challenges, and skills shortages that slowed them down. We used that information to build meaningful, practical, and customized education.
Our employees saw that we wanted to understand their jobs and how to help them do them better. One of our branch managers, for instance, needed practical tools to help him source, recruit, and interview A-level employees. Our accounts receivable managers needed specific training in handling difficult customer conversations and creating past-due repayment plans. Create meaningful, practical, and timely programs.
Create Different Ways to Learn
Not everybody learns the same way. We committed to offering at least three different delivery methods for each of our training programs. Our employees could participate in a full classroom program, attend webinars, or use a self-directed workbook. The freedom to choose their delivery method eliminated some of the greatest resistance to learning.
Build In Some Fun
Statistically, we all know that we are so much more engaged and attentive if we’re having a good time. Boring training material doesn’t have to be delivered in a boring way. We regularly built activities into our webinar and classroom programs that forced employees from different locations to work together, build a bond, and earn points or prizes. For instance, in one of our classroom programs, we rallied around a NASCAR theme: Employees earned points based on their participation in the learning. Those points could be used to buy parts for their “cars” — cars that were to be assembled and raced at the end of the program. The greater the participation, the more car parts could be purchased, and the faster the car. Employees were buzzing about it before they came in to work and well after they left. And learning soared.
As we always said at the education center, learning can be ordinary or extraordinary. And the only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a the choice to do a “little extra.” Choosing to make learning meaningful, fun, and available in different ways moved our teams from dreading learning to anxiously waiting for the next program.
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations — their leaders and managers — in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. Follow him on Twitter.