Make Your Training Programs Go Viral

Get employees interested in training
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Upskilling your employees is important for them to advance—and for companies to develop the talent they need. Here’s how to make sure they’re interested.

Face it: Your training programs are dead on arrival.

In many instances employees greet training with a big yawn, if not downright ridicule. Training initiatives you consider vital for achieving company goals are often duds.

You don’t have to bore your staff. Dramatically altering how your cohort embraces future training sessions is as simple as making them highly interactive and adaptable to the realities and practices of the workplace.

Making training truly “viral” requires creativity and marketing strategies that will generate excitement and motivate people to spread the word. Traditional training methods no longer cut it. We’re talking about injecting a “coolness” factor into training. That may be foreign to a staid practice, but it’s the cure to having training discounted by naysayers.

Training must be a value proposition. Aside from being value driven and aligning with your vision and goals, employees must see value in training, allowing employees the opportunity to become more productive and receive promotions. The younger generation, in particular, is fed up with spending time in boring training sessions that provide no benefits. 

If companies want their training to go viral, employees have to be invested and have to see financial benefits and opportunities to move up the corporate ladder within their companies. In addition, the training has to be fun and engaging to keep participants involved.

The Power of ‘Gamification’

 “Gamification” can infuse a sense of adventure, maybe even fun into what has largely developed into a ho-hum experience. Gamification transforms learning (or the relevant work application) into an interactive, competitive experience, leveraging game-like mechanics and activities to enhance motivation, learning effectiveness and satisfaction, and overall work outcomes. While a lot of gamification is more applicable to certain roles—such as sales—any training that contains gamification is always good for healthy internal competition. 

Companies should also allow those participating to bring current project work to the training itself. That way, participants can see the value and application in real time, rather than stressing over being distracted from a pending project. Of course, this is not always possible, especially if the training is about getting employees to understand specific concepts or new frameworks. However, by allowing some time for participants to work on their actual responsibilities, the chances of the training going viral become that much greater. 

Also, instead of treating employees as junior high students who have to sit, listen and take notes, companies should make it clear they respect their workers. Establish the training session by telling participants that they and their opinions are valued and that hearing from them in the session is important. Standing at the front of the ‘class’ and just lecturing does not yield positive results. Employees are the experts of their own organizations and their own challenges. Trainers should drive the concepts, but the participants need to expand on the materials and discuss and figure out how to implement them during training. 

It’s also important to not overwhelm participants with training. Instead of setting aside a whole week for training, implement the lessons learned and then return several weeks or a month later to learn new skills and tools. Allowing training to be spaced out and for employees to see the results of applying their training will encourage them to return. 

Training should also be used as an opportunity to explain that these sessions and learning the new skills and tools associated with them can lead to, as mentioned before, promotional opportunities. That, in turn, leads to greater responsibility, and to employees becoming thought leaders or company experts in a specific new tool. However, this means that companies must make those promotional opportunities available and be confident that it will pay off for the company in the long run by making the investment in their employees and in the technology needed for their company. 

Training can be divided into either team or project-based work. Implementation via both of these methods allows participants to discuss the specific concepts being taught, figure out how to apply them, collectively, and use them effectively. It’s also critical to integrate as many aspects of new technology as possible into training. Any new technology that can enhance a company’s productivity is considered progress.

Involve Leadership

There are natural pitfalls, too. No matter how good the training is, it must first have the support and participation of upper management. Leaders need to show they are paying attention to and care about their employees by making it clear they want to help. They should be available to participate in the training and ongoing discussions. Engaging with their employees doesn’t just make their workers feel more valued, it allows company leaders to gain important insight into their practices by talking with employees about what worked in the training, and what didn’t. Asking what the company could do differently. However, it also can’t simply be a one-off survey. Face-to-face conversations with employees are important to get a full picture in much the same way attorneys talk to a jury after a verdict.

Company leaders also need to identify the right training partners. They should not fall into the trap of thinking that they know the best partners to pick. This is a decision that should involve both middle managers and employees. By choosing two or three high performer employees to help identify and select the right training partner, also helps workers become invested in training.

Employee training done correctly can go viral as long as companies understand that they should leverage the external resources that are available to help with training, rather than creating massive training departments in-house. While they may not know a company’s business inside and out, partners know how to figure out what a company needs, and then leverage their expertise in the training arena.

At the end of the day, that’s where companies will get the biggest bang for their buck, because the experts know what technology works, and most importantly, they know how to communicate with their audience. 

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