Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Employee Engagement Matters for eLearning

By Shelley A. Gable

According to most definitions, an “engaged” employee is a high-quality performer who takes personal responsibility to work toward the success of an organization.

Several posts on this blog offer advice for engaging learners through compelling eLearning design (e.g., gaining attention, storytelling, providing practice opportunities, etc.). While effective instructional tactics are critical for learning, we also know that a training event is only one piece of the puzzle. The perceptions and attitudes of learners prior to starting training can impact performance just as much as the training itself (sometimes more!).

Imagine if all your learners fit the definition of the “engaged” employee. Such a population would likely look forward to training, proactively request clarification as needed, and eagerly apply newly learned skills on the job.

It’s no wonder that researchers credit employee engagement with financial benefits related to customer service, teamwork, and productivity!

So how can organizations foster a culture of employee engagement?

To systematically enhance engagement, it must be measured (typically done through a survey)…and the organization must act on the results. Unfortunately, many companies fail to act on survey results, which can actually lead to negative consequences like frustration, disillusionment, and distrust on the part of employee respondents.

I’m not going to claim that you can transform a group into a highly engaged workforce overnight. But you can help an organization make progress.

In a study published in Performance Improvement Journal last April, organizational leaders said that employee engagement survey results weren’t actionable. They didn’t know what to do after the results were handed to them. They also said that it was easy to forget about engagement after initial communication about the survey effort had passed.

Here’s where you come in...

As instructional designers, most of us know a thing or two about goal-setting, communication, and other types of performance improvement interventions. So let’s flex these muscles in ways that go beyond eLearning.

The findings of the article mentioned earlier led to a recommendation to support employee engagement efforts through a communication plan. A communication plan that includes a few really straight-forward components:

  • How to communicate engagement results throughout the organization

  • Actionable recommendations leaders can follow to improve engagement on their teams

  • A year-round strategy for announcing positive changes resulting from the survey in routine communications throughout the company

Several instructional design theorists remind us of the importance of supporting learners after they complete an eLearning course (e.g., Gagne, Merrill, Keller, etc.). Though we must ensure this support is in place for each training effort, enhancing engagement can contribute to an ongoing sense of organizational support.

Are you involved in employee engagement initiatives in your organization?

If so, tell us about the impact you believe it can have on training effectiveness. And as always, we also welcome your tips and ideas.

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