The COVID-19 pandemic has upended corporate culture and opened a rare opportunity for businesses to reevaluate their policies and procedures. What better time to align teams from top to bottom?

Like-minded individuals working toward the same goals have the highest potential to grow an enterprise. Employees should not only understand the company’s mission, but also seek to fulfill it every day on the job. Most companies, therefore, vet prospects carefully to hire the best people, extending offers only to those most attuned to the company’s culture.

Training and development affords additional chances to reinforce desirable values. Here are some best practices that encourage employees to commit to a business’ purpose during the training process.

Avoid Boring, Top-down Communications

When leaders have a lot of information to impart in a short amount of time, it can be tempting to sit everyone down and just tell it to them, although training in which “talking heads” simply lecture to passive audiences is unlikely to prove effective. While some employees might prefer this method because it doesn’t tax their minds, it’s not in managers’ best interests to allow them to zone out during these conversations.

Most people understand this from their own experience in traditional face-to-face classrooms and business meetings. For businesses with remote teams, it’s still important to avoid this dynamic. Some companies try to train new employees by having them watch a series of videos, but this isn’t always effective. For maximum effectiveness, videos should be kept short and paired with other online activities that help people integrate what they have just learned.

Collaboration, Interaction And Fun

If businesses should avoid turning their employees into passive recipients of information, then what should they do instead?

Interaction is key, and so is fun. Instead of testing employees on a given policy, consider turning the questions into a game or competition. Simply matching employees with their co-workers can inject interest, even if the content itself is dry or boring, and offering prizes can also spark engagement.

Employees will also work harder if they feel like they have made a major contribution and now own a given task. Thus, a collaborative approach can work wonders. Consider leading training sessions in which employees decide what the company’s values, ground rules or mission statement should be. Need a new policy, logo or tagline? Deploying a collaborative process that enables all to feel heard will increase employee buy-in, improving their overall engagement and productivity as a result.

Most employees will stay within appropriate parameters during these exercises, but what about the attention-seeking colleague who lobs a joke or two? Managers can turn even these comments to good effect. By demonstrating a sense of humor and the willingness to laugh at oneself, leaders display self-assurance and patience, which can boost their likability. The joint laughter can create bonds, bringing the team closer together.

Find Common Ground

It pays to help employees understand how their own personal goals align with the company’s success. To employ this strategy, it’s necessary to listen to new hires and understand what motivates them, and then explain how doing what the company wants them to do will help them achieve their own personal goals.

Since training is essentially education (and educators like college professors deal with disengaged students on a near-daily basis), it can be helpful to take some pointers from contemporary pedagogy. To cope with this negative energy in the classroom, savvy teachers address it head on in the first session. One common technique is to ask learners to write down their main goals in life, then direct them to note how their current program connects with those goals. Finally, tell them to pen three things about the present course that will help them in this journey. By explicitly laying out the rationale for doing the work currently in front of them, students tend to become more invested in it.

A similar activity can take part at the beginning of employee training, and it only takes 10 minutes or less. If even that sounds like too much, a moderator could verbally ask the audience why they are there. The reasons volunteered from a handful of participants can help others better comprehend the value of their role.

Authentic Connection

In the end, aligning learners around your company’s purpose all comes down to hiring excellent people and engaging them effectively during, and after, training.

The company-employee relationship should be a form of genuine connection. Staff members who feel valued are more loyal and work harder than those who don’t. By demonstrating respect for employees from the beginning, company leadership will reap ample rewards.