The training starts quite on time with the audience seated and the presenter flashing a few overcrowded slides on the screen. A question is popped and a few grunts gotten as feedback. The rambling begins and apologies are offered in between. A few people in the audience are seen scribbling into their notepads while you sit there wondering what exactly they were writing. A few key points are shared and you bend over to scribble them too – glad to finally have an opportunity to “scribble”; you smile to yourself but you still have not been able to figure out how to beat the drowsy sensation that is looming in the horizon like a tidal wave. Finally, the wave hits you and you zone off. You feel your head drop but the weight of it is overwhelming, even for you. Something startles you and you come to. The monologue continues for a few more minutes; then it finally ends and everyone thanks the trainer for such a brilliant presentation but for the life of you, you can hardly remember the details of the training.
Does that sound familiar?
In most organisations, once a memo is passed out with a call for everyone to attend a corporate training session, there is usually this somber atmosphere as though a mass sack letter was handed out to staff. Staff usually find it very devastating, it does not have to be that way. Trainings, can be fun as well!
Contrast the above experience in the first paragraph with this:
A few slips are passed round. You pick one and it has a topic or a name or a job title. You are curious. “What has this slip got to do with today’s training session?” you ask yourself. While you are trying to put your thoughts together, the trainer calls for a group activity, a few volunteers raise their hands, during the course of the activity, the trainer explains a few things and makes a few notes. Then a slide appears on the screen with just a word or a quote or an art; a few hands shoot up to ask questions, your hand is one of them although your question is still half-formed in your head. The trainer points to you and you ramble through the question in your head which does not really make sense to you, but the trainer seems to understand and reframes it back to you. Your face lights up as the answer comes to you as well. Suddenly, the training comes to an end and you’re left wondering why it was that so brief.
One of the biggest challenges of workplace training is engagement; usually, 70 to 80 percent of the participants are distracted by a hundred and one external conditions ranging from bills to traffic, so keeping everyone on the same page will require a certain skill or set of skills.
Many employees have been heard confessing that the only reason they attend workplace training sessions is either because their bosses demand it or because there is a guaranteed promotion at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This means that if we take out the reward or the threat, most training sessions would be empty. There are several researches to prove that threat and reward, as opposed to fun in learning, provide short-term benefits where learning is concerned. It is also known that our brain feels more relaxed and is more active when we do what we love and if this is translated to learning, it has the potential of absorbing 80% more information during that process.
Then how can workplace training be made fun in itself?
- Make Learning more interactive. This could be in the form of breakout sessions where participants can be put in small groups and given tasks to complete together. This process helps build new neural pathways in the brain especially if the activity is connected to a task which they are required to solve at work. This is more engaging as opposed to gathering lines of new information from slides.
- Introducing video-based learning materials. Humans think in pictures. Words like “elephant” and “car” build pictures of these things in the minds of those who have seen them before. Telling an individual who has never seen an elephant “elephants are huge creatures with swinging tails” leave them feeling like the six blind men of folklore who touched different parts of an elephant and all went their separate ways with varied opinions about what an elephant was.
- Create games around the materials. There are certain courses that could be adapted into activities that help excite the brain; this kind of learning is called “gamification”. This could be in the form of competitions or drills. Activities like this keep the participants engaged and excited as they gun for both mastery and reward.
- Break the sessions into modules. Some organisations schedule sessions to take up the entire time block allotted. This could be counter-productive as attention spans begin to wane.
- Make it social. SimplyPsychology indicates that one of the needs of man is the need to build relations. This also applies in training sessions. Actually, this can be strategically incorporated into every part of the above by ensuring that activities are discussed among the participants.
Using one or two or all the points enumerated above can seem like a daunting task but at the end of the session, the effort will be worth it as it will leave the employees motivated and engaged to learn new ideas for their tasks and assignments.