This year you need to build engagement through learning and development.
Maybe you know there’s a connection between engaged employees and business success, such as higher profits and lower turnover than companies with disengaged employees.
Maybe you are aware of the damage disengaged employees can do to your company by hindering productivity, innovation, and customer experience.
Or maybe your leaders read this Gallup survey stating that engagement is highly related to positive business outcomes, and then said your learning and development efforts must focus on increasing employee engagement.
Start with empathy.
As a learning and development professional, you know you must start with the objective. This means getting clear on what is meant by building engagement. This might look different in every organization, so it’s important to define what engagement looks like so that you know when you’ve “built” it.
Executive coach and author Naz Beheshti told Forbes that engaged employees show up every day with passion and purpose.
From this you can gather that engaged employees look passionate and purposeful. This leads to the next question, which is how can you use your learning and development efforts make that happen?
To figure this out, you must start with empathy. That means putting yourself in your learners’ shoes. Seek to understand their emotions. Try to imagine what they might be thinking or feeling.
If you want employees to show up with passion, you must figure out what makes them feel passionate. That is, what do they care about? Do they care about getting to make things, or build things, or design things? Maybe they’re passionate about using a particular skill set, like public speaking or problem solving. Perhaps they care most about doing their job better and better every day.
If you want employees to show up with purpose, you must figure out what makes their work meaningful. You need to find out why they come to this workplace, to do this work, with these colleagues. Is it to earn money and pay bills? Is it an act of service for the people in their personal lives? It could be the camaraderie they feel by collaborating with and contributing to a team. It could be the personal fulfillment they get from onboarding new colleagues, coaching direct reports, or mentoring inexperienced employees. It could be because the work they do improves the world around them or makes a difference in others’ lives.
If you want engaged employees so that you can build employee engagement, you have to find the answers to these questions. To understand what makes them show up at work every day with passion and purpose, you have to empathize with your learners.
Show them you listened.
You ask employees what will make them show up at work with passion and purpose. You listen to what they tell you. And then, most importantly, you have to show them that you heard them.
Here’s why starting with empathy is the key to building engagement with learning and development:
- By consulting employees, you involve them in the process. Asking for their input shows them that they matter. This makes them feel valued.
- By acting on their input you show employees that you heard them. They feel their voice is heard, and they feel empowered on the job.
- By using their feedback to tailor learning and development opportunities, you show employees that you are invested in them, as individuals.
This approach ensures employees consider those learning and development opportunities useful, which will drive productivity and performance. They will find them meaningful, so employees will likely discuss what they learned with colleagues and retain information longer.
Act on their input.
After focusing your learning and development efforts on empathizing with employees and making them feel heard, you can use what they told you to customize a learning and development program with hand-picked topics and content. You can also use this great information to select learning strategies and choose modalities to provide them an even more personalized learning experience.
Using what you learned by empathizing with your learners helps you create design content based on their wants and needs that grabs their attention and doesn’t let go. The kind of content that resonates so much with learners that they think about it later and talk about it with colleagues.
Knowing what’s important to them and what motivates them helps you choose interactivity your learners find compelling. This could mean opting leveraging emotion and storytelling that pulls at their heartstrings. It could mean stimulating learners with visual demonstration or immersive simulation. Or it could mean hooking learners with serious games that incorporate competition or role playing.
Choose which levers to pull.
There are so many levers you could pull to build engagement through learning and development, and often not enough inhouse expertise to bring them to life. The good news is that for many of these levers, the expertise you need is within your reach. To learn more about these levers and many others, head over to our blog to start building that expertise. In some cases, you’ll learn what you need to start pulling some levers right away.
In other cases, you’ll find that some levers are more complicated or require resources that are out of your reach. If you want to talk about the levers that need pulling, Dashe is happy to listen, answer question, and offer suggestions. We are just as happy to consult on your strategy and give you a few pointers as we are here to partner with you through any or every stage of the process, from empathizing with learners to customizing experiences guaranteed to engage your learners.
You can do it.
Remember that building engagement starts with your audience and finding out what drives their passion and purpose. Asking employees for input and listening to their answers shows you’re invested in their growth, and this makes them feel valued. This is the first step to building engagement with learning and development.