Let’s be honest—by nature, job training isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. For business leaders and HR personnel, training is important and necessary to keep work efficient. But what’s the opinion of your learners? Chances are, some of them view job training as a mundane task they just need to check off their list. Since you can’t really change the subject matter, how can you give your learner a positive outlook on their learning experience

The short answer: make it matter to them. Your learners will be more motivated and engaged knowing that they can use their new knowledge to make their workday more productive. Engaged learners are able to retain more of what they learn and have a more positive attitude towards learning. 

The psychology of engagement

When it comes down to it, there are two parts of every human’s brain that dictate learning, retention, and implementation: the conscious learning mind and the subconscious learning mind. The conscious mind is in charge of deciding if something has a long-term benefit. This part of your brain is less focused on being in the moment and more focused on planning for the future. On the other hand, the subconscious mind influences your attention—it controls what information is retained and what quickly gets forgotten.

Think of a career as a big puzzle. The conscious mind is able to see what the end goal is and can imagine the puzzle piece of on-the-job learning in the bigger picture. On the other hand, the subconscious mind can only see one puzzle piece at a time. It doesn’t matter how important the puzzle piece is to the conscious mind’s bigger picture—if the subconscious mind doesn’t think it’s fun at the moment, the piece gets disregarded.

The most effective level of engagement happens when the conscious learning mind knows how the puzzle piece will fit into the bigger picture, and when the subconscious learning mind finds the puzzle piece interesting.

Engaging the conscious learning mind

This is the part of your brain that can see the big picture, and the part that gets the entire brain motivated. Part of your job is convincing the conscious mind that learning the material will be beneficial in the long run. An easy way to accomplish this is to help them identify where the learning material fits within their day-to-day lives.

Learning objectives are a great way to tell your people what you want them to be able to do (or do better) after the training is over. When you clearly list goals at the beginning of the training, it’s easy for a learner to understand what they’re supposed to be learning. Using objectives keeps your learner’s conscious mind aware of the big picture benefits they’ll gain from their experience. 

Engaging the subconscious learning mind

You can motivate the learner’s conscious mind all you want, but when it comes down to it, learning happens at the discretion of the subconscious. It can only see the little picture and doesn’t really care about long-term motivation, so you have to come up with some other ways to keep the subconscious mind invested in the learning experience.

The subconscious thrives on emotional investment and intuition. If you engage your learners on these levels, you’ll see a higher rate of retention and more successful implementation. Plus, your people will find learning more enjoyable. It’s a win-win.

3 strategies to keep your learners’ attention

Keeping your learner’s attention focused on the subject matter requires some outside-the-box thinking. No one wants to sit for an hour reading page after page of policies and procedures. So, how do you keep your content interesting and relevant to the learner?

Microlearning: divide the content into bite-size pieces

Microlearning is one of the most versatile forms of eLearning—it has the potential to increase retention, engagement, and productivity. Microlearning’s philosophy is to deliver content in short, specific bursts. This style effectively gives the learner some control over what and when they’re learning. Research shows that learners have better retention rates when they are able to pace themselves.

Communicate your message with storytelling and scenarios

People learn better when they can relate the subject matter back to their own lives, and storytelling is one of the best ways to emotionally connect learners to their subject matter. Telling a story gives the learner a hero to follow, which increases their emotional investment. In learning scenarios, your learner becomes the hero. Learners encounter a situation (a problem with a procedure, an irate customer) that requires them to make decisions based on what they’ve learned. Then, the learner will receive feedback on their choices. In branching scenarios, a learner’s choice leads them down a specific path that can show them the outcome (or consequence) of each decision. In addition to being interactive and fun for the subconscious mind, scenarios help the conscious mind relate the material to a real-world application. They’re basically a win-win.

Consider the timing of your learning

Using positive stress to motivate learners is an effective way to get them more engaged with the subject matter. You can schedule the learning session closer to their start date, which closes the gap between learning and implementation. This creates a sense of learning material “in the nick of time,” creating another source of positive stress. 

How engagement impacts your business

Keeping people engaged while learning about their new job or a new policy has a bigger long term impact than you might think. Yes, engaged learners show a higher rate of retention—but what does that mean to you? 

Employees that retain more knowledge are better at using it in their daily lives. This means better job performance and higher levels of engagement at work, which translates into a higher employee retention rate. In short, you now have more productive, invested employees who stay with the company longer. Look at you go—you just made everyone happier.

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