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How to engage reluctant learners

The process of nurturing proactive, self-directed learning is not the same for every employee. For many reasons, such as lack of time, lack of awareness or lack of access to relevant learning content, some employees will be more reluctant to engage in their own upskilling than others. Luckily, there are a few steps L&D professionals can take to engage even the most reluctant employees, boost engagement rates and secure a positive ROI.  

Provide employees with a variety of content 

A common cause of reluctance to learn is that employees are unable to access learning content that is of interest to them or relevant to their specific needs. The first step to engaging employees who are reluctant to take their learning into their own hands is to give them the choice of the areas they can develop. Learning platforms should provide content on a variety of topics so that every learner, regardless of skill level, experience or position in the company has an equal opportunity to develop the area that they personally require upskilling in.   

Promote learning content  

Unawareness of the relevant learning content available to them is often the real cause of employees who appear reluctant to learn. Learning materials and the tools themselves should be promoted to employees so that they are fully aware of the development opportunities available to them. This should be done both through internal communications, such as an intranet or newsletter, as well as through the learning platform itself which could recommend content that will benefit the individual learner specifically based on previous searches and content consumed.  

Don’t take up too much of employees’ time  

Today’s employee is busier than ever and throwing soft skills development into the mix can seem overwhelming, particularly if employees are met with materials that are dense, difficult and take ages to complete. Because the average attention span is shrinking, long-form content tends to cause employees to switch off and become reluctant towards learning. In order to encourage busy employees to become self-directed learners, it is crucial that those in charge of L&D provide them with learning content that is as short as possible and only as long as necessary such as bite-sized modern eBooks or short-form courses.  

Use a platform that regularly updates engaging content  

Social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and entertainment streaming services all capitalise on the basic human need for novelty and continuously add new content. What engages people as consumers, will also engage them as employees learning. (link to consumer article) If content is static, employees will quickly lose interest and be reluctant to return to their company’s learning platform. It is important for organisations to work with learning platforms that regularly update and add new content which will engage and intrigue employees far more than recycled information they have already consumed. 

Invest in tools that enable employees to learn at their own pace 

No two employees are alike meaning they do not learn at the same speed or in the same way. Some learners consume content quickly while they work while others prefer to take their time and break learning up by stepping away returning at a later date. This means that users should be able to pick up learning from where they last left off from multiple devices. Employees often use their free time to develop their skills and if a platform is not adaptable or flexible to suit individual needs and allow them to learn at their own pace, they will be disinclined to do so.  

Make upskilling accessible from anywhere 

In order to engage as many employees as possible, accessing materials should not come with limitations. Only allowing learners to complete their soft skills development at their work desk will limit and discourage employees from accessing learning at the point of need. It is crucial that learning materials are mobile-friendly, downloadable and easily consumed on-the-go.  

Ensure the platform is easy to use  

A guaranteed way to discourage proactive learning is by providing users with a platform that is difficult to access and tough to use. It is crucial that every user, from the most tech-savvy to the least, can equally engage in learning through an easy-to-access, easily navigable platform.  

Make learning anonymous  

If an employee is experiencing difficulty in areas such as time or stress-management, they may be reluctant to search for upskilling through fear of appearing inadequate or unfit to perform their role. Learning platforms should allow anonymous access to learning content so that employees are encouraged to seek out development at the point of need without the concern of repercussion from management. 

Track engagement  

Although individual learner’s data should remain anonymous, it is important for those in charge of learning within a company to remain aware of what content is engaging employees and what isn’t and adjust accordingly. The more engaging content employees find, the more likely they will be inclined to take advantage of the company’s learning opportunities. Tracking engagement and usage rates can ensure the content L&D professionals are providing is useful and engaging to as many employees as possible. 

Reluctance does not necessarily equal laziness. There are many reasons an employee may be uninterested in their own development and it is crucial that their L&D manager provides them with the tools to ensure there are as few obstacles as can be between their proactive decision to learn and the moment they apply new skills.  

Engage even the most reluctant learners with our eBook Employee Engagement, free for a limited time, here.

employee engagement