Engaging employees at work is the foundation of effective training

A couple of months ago, Congress held hearings addressing UFOs (now officially known as unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs, FYI). These events didn’t exactly generate the buzz we may have expected. Many younger people responded not with rapt curiosity, but with a collective shrug. The phenomenon was so prevalent it even hit meme culture.

Aliens Exist
Image credit: r/memes
Image source: r/dankmemes
Image source: r/dankmemes

The memes eloquently summarize the situation: a generation that’s trying to establish themselves financially and professionally is struggling in a difficult economy. It’s tough to care about even once-fetishized interests when one’s basic aspirations seem unfeasible because of global financial factors.

Similarly, we can design and deploy shiny training technology that we think will be irresistibly engaging and make an impact, but what if people aren’t excited about the training (or even their jobs) in the first place? There’s a crucial lesson here for organizations working on critical training projects: employees need to be engaged at work before they will genuinely engage in training. If the work environment or employee culture is broken, training intended to drive business transformation is going to be a long battle up a very steep hill.

The connection between engaged employees and effective training

In the past few years, work as we know it has changed, with people and businesses grappling with various challenges precipitated by the pandemic. There’s been the Great Resignation, the quiet quitting phenomenon, and an unusual talent shortage amid economic uncertainty. Employees, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are reevaluating what they want and expect from their work. Along with the need for flexibility and autonomy, they are also searching for more purpose, meaning, and impact. According to McKinsey, 31% of employees quit their previous jobs due to a lack of meaningful work.  

It’s widely known that engaged employees are more likely to stay with the company, bringing increased productivity and a motivating atmosphere. However, it takes more than engaging training content to achieve this; organizations need to think about fostering a culture of engagement from the ground up. The learning you create will never have the impact you desire unless you adopt a culture that values and nurtures its employees. 

How can you get employees sufficiently engaged at work? There is a little bit of chicken-and-egg phenomenon at play here. Although engaged employees enable effective learning, learning experiences can also play a critical role in building engagement and company culture. 

Here are some best practices for creating a culture that fosters engagement

Helping employees to find purpose

People seek purpose in their lives—and that includes at work. The age of the employment contract, where workers exchanged time and services solely for pay, has come to an end. Today more than ever, employees seek more profound connections, a sense of belonging, and work driven by a clear sense of purpose. CIO research found that creating more meaning for employees in their work boosts:

By creating a work environment that is focused on purpose and values, people will feel more connected to their work and understand why what they are doing matters. 

Nurturing talent

In today’s dynamic job market, employees are increasingly seeking avenues to enhance their skills. Organizations that facilitate these opportunities foster engagement and loyalty. Training isn’t just about equipping employees with specific skills; it’s about fostering a supportive environment where they can grow, both professionally and personally. By developing employees, you are offering the tools and opportunities people need to advance while giving them a feeling of value and motivation to do more. This growth mindset encourages individuals to stretch their limits, embrace leadership roles, contribute meaningfully to the company’s success, and stay with the company longer. 

Creating alignment

Creating alignment within an organization is crucial for its success and the engagement of its employees. To achieve this, it’s essential to start by clearly defining and communicating the company’s vision, mission, values, and goals to all team members to provide a shared sense of direction and purpose. The company’s vision, mission, values, and goals should also align and direct the company’s strategy, structure, processes, and systems. 

How we helped a client create alignment

We helped a well-established consumer goods company transform its culture by assisting employees in aligning with the company’s new vision. Although the company had communicated and reinforced the core behaviors and leadership standards the year before, employees were struggling to connect the new vision, mission, and supporting behaviors to their daily work. It was simple for the company to communicate the vision, but more challenging to bring it to life. 

Our solution was to create two workshops that leveraged a combination of learning visuals and scenario simulations. The first workshop for all employees focused on exploring the company’s vision, values, and supporting behaviors using a learning visual inviting employees to take a metaphorical journey. The second workshop was designed specifically for leaders, who needed to be able to lead by the fundamental principles and reinforce desired behaviors. By putting the company’s vision, mission, values, and behaviors in the context of everyone’s job role, we were able to engage employees and facilitate a change in the culture.


You can see the symbiotic relationship between training and engagement through alignment. 

The solution is NOT out of this world 

Engaging learners isn’t just a matter of creating appealing content and experiences; it’s about fostering a culture where employees feel valued and motivated to contribute. When employees are engaged in their work, they’re receptive to well-designed training, leading to behavior change and tangible business results. Training can play a role in creating this culture—provided it doesn’t feel alien and irrelevant. Just as a generation is more concerned with issues affecting them on planet Earth than the threat of alien invasions, organizations must look to their own culture and context to build an engaged workforce.

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