Written By: Rich Mesch
May 1, 2018 – 5 min read
Have you ever heard a statement likes this? “We want to engage employees in this new learning initiative, so we’re going to use gamification, because people love games.” Does that make sense to you? Do you believe it would work? That’s sort of like saying that problem is “hunger “so the solution must be “tuna.” Sure, tuna is the solution to some hunger problems, but is it the solution to all of them? Nope. So let’s spend some time defining the challenge of learner engagement (you know, the way we tell our clients to).
Measurement is a good thing. However, most employee engagement efforts seem focused on measuring engagement at a point in time. That’s a little like trying to win a baseball game by spending the game staring the scoreboard. Evaluating metrics is useful, but it doesn’t drive engagement. And what’s even more dangerous is inferring causality: “Well, we did gamification this year, and our engagement scores went up, so that’s proof that gamification increases engagement.” So by all means, measure; but accept that measurement will tell you what happened, it may not tell you why it happened, and it’s not going to tell what’s going to happen in the future.
Sometimes we talk about learning like it’s entertainment. And yes, often good learning interactions are very entertaining. But entertainment is not the goal of learning—it’s just a method of getting to the goal. Similarly, sometimes we talk about engagement as if it’s all about keeping the learner’s attention. But attention is not engagement. So what are the elements of employee engagement in learning?
If a learning initiative genuinely doesn’t impact any of those aspects, you should probably be asking yourself if it’s valid (or if it’s even learning). But more often, the learning is highly relevant, but it’s provided in a non-relevant way. Compliance learning is a great example; often, compliance content is presented as a list of rules and regulations that must be clicked on. That approach makes retention doubtful and application even less likely. Instead, identify how appropriate compliance behavior ties back to the five criteria listed above. Does the learning communicate if compliant behavior will make you more effective at your job? Will it enhance your career prospects? At the very least, make the relevance clear; what are bad things that can happen to me or the company if I’m not compliant? So do solution design and learning modality impact engagement? Absolutely. Once you understand the criteria that engage employees, you can create solutions that leverage those criteria.