Last week, KZO Innovations interviewed learning influencer and expert community builder, Brent Schlenker. The conversation focused on two key areas:
- How L&D professionals can build communities of learners around new learning technologies and new learning modalities?
- How L&D professionals can move employees from feeling bored and frustrated with learning to being excited and collaborative about learning?
To start, Brent told of his story about being a pioneer in wikis (before Wikipedia), being a high-frequency blogger (before blogging was fully understood), predicting video to be the next phase of blogging, capturing the essence of in-person, live-streamed, and recorded video, and how he’s on a search for what’s next. But throughout all of his career and with the tide of technology carrying the industry through some wild rides, Brent says there is one thing that has remained constant: community.
With technology, new demographics in the workforce, and new research, one role has never wavered for the L&D professional: the responsibility of getting people engaged. We asked Brent, if he had to break it down, what is the recipe for learner engagement?
Here are the essentials:
1. Give purpose
No one likes to be told what to do. As an L&D professional, you have to make it clear that there is a greater outcome to be captured. Taking a required course seems like a chore for the employee. In fact, they may go as far as believing that you are selfishly making them take a course to check it off your to-do list. But if they knew that the required course was intended to create for a more tolerant culture; or would help them rise to a new organizational level; or would give them the credentials to have more influence over decisions….then they have purpose.
2. Expose and reprise great content
The internet, access to it, and the ability to add to the world of information has created so much content that we truly don’t need to make our own anymore. Of course, there will always be a need for branding and personalizing pieces of your training programs but with the idea of training in micro-sessions, you as the L&D professional can turn yourself into a master curator and insert short, relevant segments into the day-to-day and when it counts most. Brent says “make it simple”; things don’t have to be complex or drawn out to show quality.
3. Get social
Be part of the conversation. Get out of your cube. Engage with the workforce. All of the survey data you have won’t add up to what you’ll learn by just being present around those employees who are consuming your content. If they trust you with their daily challenges, then they’ll trust that your learning recommendations will help get them solved.
4. Get into the “Flow of Work”
Taking employees away from their work for training may make them feel overwhelmed and resentful of the learning opportunity. Instead, find ways to incorporate training into the flow of work. Quick morning tips after logging in, visuals at the coffee maker, learning games for gift certificates to the local lunch joint, mobile learning apps for quick info while on the commuter train. Become a part of their lives by understanding how they work and making use of the time they are willing to give to learning something new.
5. Be entertaining
“The workplace needs laughter. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.” — The Harvard Business Review. Even compliance training can be delivered with a little bit of humor!
Brent described what he believes is required for seeing communities grow around content: value, frequency, relevance, emotion, connection. Video, Brent believes, is an amazingly power tool to build community because it provides a forum for us to “be human” through our facial expressions, our tone of voice, and our off-the-cuff remarks.
Being human allows your viewer — your learner — to see all facets of you and gives them something to connect with. What may resonate for one may be different for another but creating some level of connection and emotion is critical for the learner to come back a second and third time.
Remember, every time you sit on a plane you are told that you have to listen to the instructions in the event of an emergency. Most of us half listen, maybe less. But on those special occasions, when you have a flight attendant who delivers those same instructions with a slightly different tone, with a smile, and with a bit of humor…then you start to listen…maybe you even laugh…you may even clap when the pilot lands the plane. There is entertainment in everything. Be human. Be kind. Make them feel something and they will come back for more.
Click to to view the archive of the recent webcast with Brent Schlenker.