How to keep employees coming back for more?

There is a lot of talk about connecting with and professionally developing millennials in the workplace. I certainly face this challenge with most of my clients, which can also be compounded we also have to provide training to seasoned staff, and sometimes even long-time credentialed professionals.

For a company to be successful in providing quality training and professional development for their employees, they need to engage their learners from the moment they logg into the training portal.

Training and professional development is critical when you are looking to recruit potential employees, develop and retain current staff, and ultimately generate an environment of company pride, loyalty, and excitement. If you want people across the country to be buzzing about how you take care of your employees, how you help develop their skills in the industry, how you help them grow professionally, and how you create a path for they to succeed, you need to provide your employees with engaging training and a detailed development plan.

The training and education industry is not much different from any other industry attempting to engage the end-user. We live in a technology-rich environment, constantly stimulated by the latest and greatest. As a result, our attention span as a society has shortened and the challenge has become, how do we keep the interest of the end-user?

The movie industry pushes the limits of special effects to attract and entertain movie goers – look at the abundance of action movie remakes from the 80s. With today’s technology, producers and directors are confident that they can turn a 30 year old movie into a new and exciting experience. This is ingenious because not only do they attract the younger generations, but also those individuals who saw the original some 30 years ago and are interested in how that original can be improved upon.

Computer manufactures recognize this shift in life-styles. When was the last time you saw a commercial about the latest and greatest desktop computer? Today’s demand is in convenience and mobility, but still powerful. It wasn’t that long ago that the computer had its role, and your cell phone had its distinctive roll as a method of communication, but that is no longer the case. The gap between these two technologies has been bridged with the development of the tablet. How many of you have your tablet with you at this conference? With the tablet, I can host a conference call, talk to my family, schedule appointments, work on spreadsheets, search the internet, and even take classes. The desktop is becoming obsolete, because today’s person is constantly on the go. They are constantly seeking interaction and engagement. That is why hardware manufacturers are focused on the research and development of more powerful tablets and phones, rather than clunky and restrictive desktop computers.

Let’s take a look at the video game industry, and think back to the days of Atari and original Nintendo. Generation X grew up with games like Donkey Kong and Pac Man.  And I know there are some baby boomer parents out there who were playing these video games after their kids went to bed. Now jump ahead to today’s generation – the millenials and their generation X parents are entertained by life-like characters and 3D effects. I still have my original Nintendo system, and I tried to get my 7 year old son to play the football game – “10 Yard Fight”. He lasted for about 3 minutes and was completely bored. He got frustrated that the players moved so slowly. He wanted to know why there weren’t plays to select, and why the players were so small and all one color. Why the remote control didn’t shake when you tackled someone, and why there was only 2 buttons on the remote.

This experience got me thinking about my profession and the online trainings I develop. The question we must ask ourselves is, in today’s technology-rich society, are we engaging our employees with high quality training, encouraging them to keep coming back for more, or are we simply forcing a lot of information on our staff?  Are you using PowerPoint slides that were converted into E-learning modules, webinar recordings that with sub-par audio quality, videos that look more like home videos, and an over-abundance of PDF documents that are likely never read, or simply printed out and sit somewhere in a binder until it becomes outdated. Take a look at your user-interface. Is it boring? Does is lack any kind of graphic design? Are courses difficult to find? Do your courses play on a variety of platforms such as tablets and smartphones? Are your interactions within the courses limited to icons that simply trigger text boxes to appear to provide more information?

I am a firm believer that the quality of training you provide to your employees is a clear reflection of your company’s philosophies as a whole. If a company’s priority is taking care of their customer’s needs, than that company should have quality training that takes care of their employees’ needs. If a company preaches state of the art technology, then their training should be developed using state of the art technology.

One of the first things I do when assessing a clients current training, is determine, whether their training adequately reflects who they are as a company. And too many times I find that they are the culprit of one of the most common mistakes by instructional designers moving to mobile – they take pre-existing courses and simply shrink up the content, and rely too heavily on PDF documents or simple videos.

The fact is, if the learner is taking a course on a mobile device, they are likely on the go. That means distractions, time limitations, and overall greater potential for disengagement. PDFs, standard training videos, and PowerPoint slides do nothing to overcome these obstacles.  With the advances in technology available to today’s consumer, there is an expectation by the learner that the quality of engagement would be reflective of 2014, and not 1995 or even 2005.

Companies, specifically instructional designers and training departments need to focus on creating an intuitive, engaging platform for training that will keep employees coming back for more.

The first step is to brainstorm as a team, to dream big. Push the limits of what is possible and only concede those impossible elements, once they were proven to truly be impossible.  With the design in place it is time to develop the necessary skills within your current instructional design staff, and hire additional instructional designers who already have the skill-set to accomplish what was designed.  Be sure to gain support from the executives in this dream by accepting the budget necessary to grow the instructional design team, and purchase the required software and hardware to develop industry leading training materials.

With the advances in HTML5 and mobile apps – utilized today’s software such as iClone, Maya, even Sketch-up to begin building a virtual learning environments and avatars so that you can develop customized training for all key elements within your company including customer service, new hire orientation, product knowledge, risk and safety, and continuing education credit courses for credentialed professionals. 

Be sure your courses use branched learning methodology with the enhancement of 3D modeling for a modern video game quality engagement. Interactions, including simulations and discovery, so that the end-users are empowered to control their learning experience. Develop a combination of videos on demand and live telepresence courses enhanced by social learning, so that your employees truly have the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed in both a mobile environment and in a more traditional online setting.

What I would like you to all ask yourselves is, does your training materials adequately reflect the philosophies of your company? Are you developing and distributing training appropriate for the Atari and Desktop Computer generation, or for the Tablet and Nintendo 3Ds generation?