How to E-N-G-A-G-E Workplace Learners

Jan 24, 2019

By  Vicki Halsey, Ph.D.

According to research from the National Training Laboratories Institute, passive learning methods such as attending a lecture or watching a video result in average retention rates of only 30%. However, once learners begin to engage in more participatory learning, those average retention rates soar to 90%.

Welcome to ENGAGE, a six-step learning model that is based on the most recent discoveries in neuroscience. The ENGAGE Model provides an all-new learning model that, unlike traditional methods, sets people, and the companies they work for, up to succeed.

How? First, ENGAGE shines a light on the learner—not the teacher. Second, it shifts the emphasis to “how” teachers teach—not “what” teachers teach. And, third, it stimulates active, not passive, learning.

For all workplace teachers—trainers, managers, coaches, mentors, team leaders, and others—here’s how, step by step, to E-N-G-A-G-E:

Step 1: Energize learners
To truly engage learners, you must energize them early and often. From the very start (and even ahead of time), stimulate curiosity, stir up desire, and introduce the topic. There are many best practices to choose from, including e-mailing cool interactive invitations, livening up arrivals with music, placing fun quotes or toys on tabletops, and sharing your promise for the day, such as “You will walk out the door with three new skills: _____, _____, and _____.”

ENGAGE Tip: Get learners talking right away with deep, thought-provoking questions. Depending on your topic, you might ask, “Does the world need leaders?” or “What do you really want and need from a team?” Have people write down their responses on flip charts or white boards and refer back to them throughout the program.

Step 2: Navigate content
If you truly want learning to happen, here lies your most significant investment of time and talent: navigating your content by focusing less on what you teach and more on how you teach. Essentially, you must challenge and involve learners with interesting, interactive activities while also addressing multiple learning styles—visual (“seeing”), auditory (“hearing”), and kinesthetic (“doing”). This allows every learner to show up in the way that he or she is smart.

ENGAGE Tip: Create a “job aid”—a synthesis of your key concepts on a single sheet or card. As participants move through the learning event, they’ll have a snapshot of all pertinent content. For you, it’s a power tool, a versatile go-to piece always at the ready.

Step 3: Generate meaning
Learning is a relationship between learners and teachers, and between content and meaning. This step emphasizes relevance and encourages people to turn “ah-has” into action. Learners determine the significance of the content to their work and commit to acting on its true value and purpose.

ENGAGE Tip: Break learners up into small groups and ask them to share their single most important new learning and why it is valuable to them. Have a spokesperson from each group report on the findings.

Step 4: Apply to the real world
Moving from “knowing” to “doing” is critical. Here, people practice what they’ve learned in their real-world context while still operating within the safety and support of the learning environment. Many teachers skimp on this step or skip it altogether, assuming that people will automatically turn their learning into action. When teachers skip this step, participants seldom transfer their learning into new behaviors.

ENGAGE Tip: Working in small groups, pass a hat and have participants choose a problem—a sticky issue or situation they might face back on the job. Ask each group to use their new skills to solve the problem and then showcase their process with a report or role-play.

Step 5: Gauge and celebrate
Whether your learning session lasts one hour or one week, it’s important to have people assess what they’ve learned, not only to review the material, but also to deepen the neural connections. Moreover, it’s important to celebrate the learning in fun and interactive ways, such as a “Jeopardy”-inspired game or a “Koosh Ball Review,” where learners toss a Koosh Ball and test one another on their takeaways.

ENGAGE Tip: Circle the room using “3-2-1”—a sure-fire strategy for assessing learning. Ask people to list three terms they’ve learned, two ideas they want to learn more about, and one concept or skill they think they’ve mastered.

Step 6: Extend learning to action
How many times have you learned something new and, despite your best intentions, didn’t apply it? Odds are, you just needed a little reminder or outside encouragement. There are several simple strategies you can use after the training is over to help people act on their intentions and put their new learning to work, including e-mail reminders, buddy systems, and quick games or contests.

ENGAGE Tip: Host a “lunch and learn” series to help learners review and reengage with the content. Participants can watch a short video, discuss an article, or share their successes and struggles in applying what they’ve learned. The format can be flexible: connect online, in person, or by telephone.

About the Author(s)

Vicki Halsey, Ph.D. , is vice president of Applied Learning at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is author of Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences That Connect, Inspire, and ENGAGE (Berrett-Koehler, 2011) and is a sought-after instructional designer, consultant, and trainer, and keynote speaker. Contact her at [email protected]