Have you ever participated in a learning experience that felt stale and caused you to struggle to connect to the purpose? Maybe you’ve walked into a training workshop and thought, “I’ve seen this model used before!”
I hear a lot of employees in different organizations say that they’d engage in more development opportunities if they were exciting and different. This desire can often be a challenge to talent development or learning and development (L&D) teams, who must regularly evaluate how they engage learners in multiple ways and ensure their offerings connect to the different ways people like to learn.
Here are three keys to keep in mind to create an engaging learning environment that encourages people to think, feel and do something with the learning.
1. Experience Matters
I spent many years facilitating learning opportunities in a traditional classroom, where I worked to incorporate thought-provoking questions into the U-shaped, herringbone or theater seating arrangements. My teams and I developed engaging activities based on what we’d researched or seen, but the environments were still similar to every other conference or workshop our learners had attended.
One day, a chief strategy officer came to a test training offering our team had developed. We received wonderful feedback and felt great about the development opportunity. However, the strategy officer invited me to his office a few days later to say that he thought the offering was good but wouldn’t achieve the desired outcomes in the time frame needed. We went through the barriers we were up against, and the biggest one was time; we only had two hours to accomplish our objectives, and this offering was going to be offered to thousands of people in the organization.
He then said, “We are looking at two hours as not a lot of time, but what if we were able to create an offering where two hours felt like a lot of time? Think about a haunted house. You spend 10 minutes in it, but it feels like hours in the moment. It’s quite the experience.”
With that statement, we were off. We built a 30-minute learning simulation that met our objectives and amazed our learners. They retained a high percentage of what they learned and asked if they could return to go through the experience again.
Challenge your team to seek value through experimentation and new ways of engaging learners. It may be difficult in the beginning, because you’ll have to overcome what you’re used to in order to create great learning experiences. But that hard work will be well worth it.
2. Feeling Takes Time
I have seen educators — myself included — do a great job creating the environment for thinking and doing to happen but fall short on the feeling piece. I’ve found, too, that the feeling piece is where retention and gritty growth happen. It is challenging to bring feeling into training content and, in turn, for the learners to put in the brave work to access it.
It’s important to remember that feeling takes time. It takes time to develop it in the learning experience, and it takes time for learners to get there. Work to create value by giving feeling the time it needs. Sometimes, it happens in a 16-hour workshop. Other times, it happens in a 30-minute simulation.
3. People Like to Learn in Different Ways
Development teams are well aware that we all prefer to learn and communicate in different ways. However, I’ve talked with learner after learner who struggles because their organization uses the same approach in style and communication, and they aren’t connecting with it. Value looks different for different people, and it is vital we keep this reality in mind as we put time and energy into creating learning content.
Different delivery approaches can rev up someone to engage like never before — or lead them to withdrawal, even when they want to learn the content. Make the active effort to experiment with delivery methods and communication approaches to bring the most value to each learner.
I am so excited when I meet with development teams and hear their passion for helping others grow and develop. It is clear that they want to create the best learning experience and bring the most value to the people they partner with. Work to ensure that your passion is supported by your action, and create learning experiences that matter. Allow time for feeling, and flex training methods and communication styles to bring maximum value to every learner, every time.