Training is no easy endeavor. Expectations on it come from so many sources, it’s utterly impossible to meet all of them. Top management wants to see palpable business results and a generous ROI on any learning intervention, middle management expects people to come out of training feeling motivated and self-directed while the employees would like to find answers, explanations and shortcuts for every single challenge they face daily in their work.
Trainers and instructional designers would like nothing better than to be able to accommodate everybody and deliver on all desired outcomes and as a result constantly look for ways to make that happen.
The secret sauce to training success: the ENGAGE Model
Vicky Halsey is one of those who set out to search for viable models for the modern learner. She found that designers tend to spend 70% of their time on what they are going to teach, and 30% of their time on how, when the ratios should be altogether reversed. In the author’s own words:
instructional techniques often are at odds with their message of inclusivity, eagerness for people to learn, and hopes that their content will change lives and organizations.
Her signature tested ENGAGE model is a great starting point for any learning initiative.
Step 1: Energize learners
To truly engage learners it is necessary to energize them from early on, even before the training session takes place. A sense of urgency, generated by e-mails from both stakeholders and informal leaders ensures that attendees will be curious and on board. It’s crucial to stir up interest by shedding some light on the topic.
The brain naturally learns over time, not in one-shot sessions so exposing the trainees to some of the information will definitely help with the process. If they receive articles, links to videos on that subject or are asked to answer some questions about it, they will feel more motivated to learn.
At the start of the course, whether it is a classroom course or an e-learning module it is best to get the participants involved as soon as they walk in or click ‘start’.
Step 2: Navigate content
Years of training experience have taught us that it is better to focus less on what is taught and more on how that happens. Keeping in mind that people have various learning styles and different preferences when it comes to content presentation, it is crucial that all participants are challenged and that they feel as if the course was designed to include them.
Especially in the modern all-tech corporate world it would be a shame not to make use of all wonderful multimedia environments available. The facilitator should incorporate as many varied activities and presentations as possible while also keeping a focus on repetition – it’s how people get to internalize and remember information.
The point is to make it easy for everybody to follow and feel at ease in this experience.
Step 3: Generate meaning
This comes in handy once the attendees have already learned the new information. It is meant to facilitate the movement of newly acquired item from the short term to the long term memory. Content needs to be closely intertwined with meaning and trainees must see the relevance of a subject and hopefully have enough ‘aha’ moments to drive them into action.
If the trainer or e-learning developer manages to show just how and why the content is relevant and can make a difference in the participants’ lives it’s an easy ride from there. To make important concepts even more poignant, it’s good to make a recap of them at the end of the course and ask participants to rate them according to importance.
Obviously not everybody will be of the same opinion but at least they will feel like their view is important and they will certainly remember at least what made it to their top.
Step 4: Apply to the real world
One of the most common complaints when it comes to training is that participants don’t really translate what they have learned in the workplace. Making the shift from “learning’ to “doing’ is a good measure of how successful a learning intervention has really been.
Thankfully, the old-fashioned role-play where everybody was pretty much just going through the motions, saying what they knew is expected only to get it over with has had it’s time. Modern technology allows L&D developers to put people in positions that replicate actual situations and environments so that they can truly test the newly acquired information without fear of failure and with the constant possibility of a do-over.
Read more: The practical use of simulations in training
When employing the powers of virtual reality is not possible, there can be a thorough and realistic video of real-life situations depicting how what was learned can improve performance.
Step 5: Gauge and celebrate
Regardless if the learning intervention lasts for a few hours, a few days or it is a program spread across a longer time period, it is very important that people can assess how much they have learned – it helps with the information settling in nicely in the long-term memory space.
Furthermore, celebrating achievement is necessary in order to activate that positive emotional response to learning. Connecting these kinds of celebratory activities with that final review or test will make it way more fun and learners will be more at ease moving through it.
If at all possible, this final step of the actual learning intervention should be designed to be as interactive as possible. Gamification techniques might prove very useful as they increase engagement levels while also promoting some degree of competition – everyone wants to rank as high as possible on those leaderboards.
Step 6: Extend learning to action
The learning process is not over once the participants leave the training room or exit the e-learning module. There are new theories that even suggest that time-wise, this should not exceed 30% of the intervention.
What happens with the information in the real world, how people can test and apply it is what really matters. If the learning material is good, people will most certainly have the good intention of using what was taught.
Yet that initial excitement can decrease over time so L&D professionals should put in place some strategies that will drive employees to act on those intentions – these can be email reminders, follow-up workshops, games and quizzes that will act both as reminders and engaging agents.
Setting up virtual spaces where people can share experience and ask for help or opinions is also a good way of extending learning into action.
With the advancements in neuroscience and the technological developments of today, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the potential of learning. The ENGAGE model can act as a very good blueprint for developing quality content that will make a difference.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.