Corporate training is vital to maintaining a cohesive work culture, improving job satisfaction and ensuring that teams have the tools they need to do their jobs. It’s a balancing act, though; providing quality courses takes considerable time and money, but forcing employees to sit through hours of bad training can cost you years of hard-won social capital faster than you can say “death by PowerPoint.”

Would-be instructors already have so much on their plates that it seems easier to throw together a quick slide deck, make sure everyone receives the presentation and call it good. This approach doesn’t solve real learning or performance problems, though. Employees may not pay close attention to those text-heavy, static slides — or, worse, they may not make time for them at all.

It isn’t that people don’t want to learn or that they aren’t responsible enough to complete workplace training. When it comes to consuming training, there are a lot of challenges that go beyond the courses themselves. Finding time in what is already a busy day to meet in a conference room or (now more than ever) spend an hour clicking through slides online is understandably difficult.

Employees want information — as long as it is valuable, engaging, applicable and user-friendly. Training professionals need to take responsibility for making the material accessible to their audience. But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some of the things your workforce would tell you about training, if you took time to ask:

1. Don’t Teach Me What I Already Know

Nobody benefits from training for the sake of training. Presenting information that employees already know isn’t helpful — and it’s a waste of time and valuable resources that could be allocated elsewhere. Consider the value of any course before inviting participants to attend. Ask:

    • Is this course necessary?
    • What are the real objectives here?
    • How can I tailor this information to the learners so that they gain real value from it?

When possible, training policies should be flexible enough to allow employees to demonstrate their knowledge on important subjects in other ways so they can quickly return to doing what they do best: our jobs.

If it’s absolutely vital to hold another meeting on something you’ve already taught, consider asking stand-out team members to lead it. Engaging team members as facilitators not only helps develop them, but it also brings in a fresh perspective and shows them that you value their expertise.

2. Make It All About Me

Engagement makes the difference between sleeping through the course and actually listening to you. Sitting in a dark conference room full of doughnuts or staring at a computer screen full of text isn’t going to hold my attention.

One of the best ways to add value to your courses is to bring more engagement into them. Instructors should ask for participation, tell interesting stories, invite exploration of the topics, use open-ended questions — even play games. They can use all of these tactics to teach relevant information in a way that is actually enjoyable.

This approach is a lot more work, but it is crucial to creating an environment where trainees are actually learning something. Learners who are engaged in the material will retain more information longer and be able to act on it when needed.

If you’re strapped for time, there are plenty of predesigned courses for purchase, or you can have a course developed specifically for your needs. The up-front investment will be worth it to engage your workforce in learning new skills and information.

3. You Lost Me at “Training”

Training is boring. Everyone knows that, right? Even after you spruce up your courses, inviting us to any kind of “training” could will shut us down before the instructor has a chance to launch the ice-breaker.

Take a different approach. You’re not rolling out the same old training deck, so don’t use the “T” word.  Choose something more descriptive of your updated, interactive approach. Being invited to participate in a “workshop” or “learning exercise” is more enticing than “training.”

Consider breaking up the content. One trend that helps keep learners tuned in is dividing information into smaller pieces. Most employees won’t spend more than 20 minutes at a time engaged in learning content, so split required training into shorter courses — a practice known as microlearning. Even better, transforming that dreaded training into a learning game instead is an impactful way to keep people’s attention focused on the task at hand. Introducing competitive leaderboards or rewards can incentivize learners to stay engaged.

4. Show Me the Relevance

Make sure I know how I can actually apply this learning when we’re finished.

Everyone has asked an instructor at some point, “Yeah, but how will I use this in the real world?” Too many courses focus on spewing information as quickly as possible. Spending time wisely is important, of course, but even more important is showing trainees what’s in it for them.

Great training should focus on changing learner behavior. Instead of presenting facts, show them alternative actions and their impact. Instead of giving them hypothetical situations, let them try their hand at building, evaluating, communicating — or whatever objective you’re attempting to teach. Approximating real-life, on-the-job situations shows employees that the training truly does apply to them.

5. Online Learning Has a Learning Curve for Me, Too

Our world has been disrupted. Even as the physical workplace adjusts to a post-pandemic reality, online courses will remain a valuable tool to reach remote team members, bridge multiple offices and provide training at a pace that works for anyone. But, it’s important to remember that new tools bring new challenges.

While some learners will naturally take to an online environment, not everyone will thrive there. Some employees won’t have access to the technology they need to run online courses. Some remote employees may have trouble finding the time for training among their many other daily duties and distractions. For others, information presented on a screen without a facilitator might seem overwhelming.

Having empathy, with a healthy dose of forgiveness and flexibility, is important. Help learners understand why a specific course matters, both to them and to the success of the workplace. Then, trust them to rise to your expectations. You may be pleasantly surprised at how they show up.

Designing courses with the needs of employees top of mind makes all the difference in the way they receive learning and on its outcomes and business impact. Spend a few hours thinking about why the material is important, how it applies specifically to your learners, how it can be more interactive and how learners will access it. When your audience can tell that you made an extra effort, they often repay you with extra effort of their own.