How to Give Your Learners the Training They Want

September 4, 2020
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Imagine you could time travel back to a just a decade ago and observe the typical day of someone working in your industry. Chances are the way they communicated, organized their work day, and pursued their strategic goals would be very different from how you work now. 

We’ve adopted new technologies, structured our work days differently, and changed the way we define and measure success. So, why are so many companies still running training the way they always have? 

The world is new, and it’s changing rapidly. You want your learners to be evolving, too — and the quickest way to keep pace with change is to build thoughtful, adaptive education into the very fabric of your organization. 

But, all this training will only work if you have buy-in. If your learners are unconvinced of the value of a training, bored by its contents, or distracted by pressing work, they won’t learn much, no matter how fantastic your training is. 

Here’s how to give your learners the training they want. 


Think about the last project you were passionate about. Even if you didn’t conceive of it from end to end, you likely had some degree of say over its direction and outcomes. 

Autonomy and buy-in go hand-in-hand. When you feel as though an initiative belongs to you in some way, you’re more likely to be invested in its success. According to the Harvard Business Review, autonomy may be the single most important element for creating engagement in a company

To get engagement from your learners on learning initiatives, start by asking them what they want. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get excited about a training initiative and forget to gather the input of the most important people involved: the students. 

To keep your team front and center of any learning initiative, encourage open discussions about learning and development. 

  • Find out what learning opportunities your learners want. 
  • Ask new members what training they wished they’d had previously. 
  • Solicit feedback on previous training. 
  • Bring members into discussions about content, timing, and goals. 
  • Give learners the resources they need to create their own opportunities. 


Chances are your learners have their futures on their minds, especially when it comes to maintaining relevant skills. In fact, many employees list skill atrophy as one of their primary concerns

  • 38% of workers worry about falling behind in acquiring necessary new skills. 
  • 37% worry their current job skills are inadequate for a promotion. 
  • 36% struggle to keep their skills up-to-date. 
  • 36% believe their current job skills fall short of where they should be. 

So, before launching a training, take the time to articulate how it ties to the bigger picture. One great way to do this is to tie learning objectives to the specific business goals, team challenges, or professional development. 

Example #1 

Learning objective: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages. 

Improved learning objective, tied to business goals: Administrative coordinator will demonstrate skilled use of Group Broadcast text messages to increase quarterly appointments scheduled. 

Example #2 

Learning objective: Sales team members will demonstrate familiarity with all the essential features of xyzCRM. 

Improved learning objective tied to solutions: Sales team members will demonstrate familiarity with all the essential features of xyzCRM to reduce lost prospects and make outreach process more efficient. 

Example #3 

Learning objective: Team leads will successfully complete two of the five technology eLearning modules. 

Improved learning objective, tied to long-term growth: Team leads will successfully complete the two technology eLearning modules they believe will be most valuable in supporting their future career goals. 


Great leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they remove obstacles preventing their team from finding the answers themselves. Though your learners may know what they want, they may not have insight into what’s standing in their way of achieving it. 

To be skilled at developing your learners, pay close attention to how they learn and what impedes their success. 

For example, if you have a learner who is often overshadowed by larger personalities, you may consider offering optional one-on-one tutorials or eLearning modules to supplement group learning. 

If you know you have learners who struggle to listen before offering feedback or solutions, embed periods of silent individual reflection in your training before resuming a group discussion. 

If an learner knows they need a certain training but is having trouble fitting it into their schedule, give them a deadline for completion. This will help them understand the training is a priority for management and give them permission to shift around other work to accommodate learning time. 


When the world is moving a mile-a-millisecond, it becomes harder and harder to get and keep your learners’ attention. So, even when you have their buy-in, your trainings need to be engaging, fun, and memorable to cut through all the noise. 

Cat videos hold our attention because they generate feelings of happiness. A picture of a friend who lives far away holds our attention because it generates feelings of love. So — you guessed it — to get their attention, create a high-emotion learning experience. 

In addition to getting their attention, emotional experience is a key way to generate behavior change. That’s what makes emotion so key in creating training that leads to lasting results. 

Both positive and negative emotions can increase engagement and attention. Here are some emotional states that are great for learning retention — and how you might create them in your trainings. 

  • Accomplishment 
  • Create small, achievable learning goals to seed your training with feelings of accomplishment 
  • Praise good effort and good results 
  • Incentivize or gamify lessons 
  • Failure 
  • Ask your learners to give an example of a time when they failed to achieve a goal 
  • Discuss the ramifications of lacking skills or knowledge 
  • Show a video of someone doing a task poorly 
  • Nostalgia 
  • Solicit positive memories from your learners around a specific topic and incorporate their memories into discussion 
  • Draw on classic TV, movies, books, and songs in your examples 
  • Frame lessons around historic events (such as the moon landing or a total eclipse) 


Another way to be heard above the din is to make the learning experience interactive. In many industries, people spend a lot of time at their desks, in front of computers, or on their smartphones. Shake things up a bit! 

  • Ask questions instead of solely giving answers. 
  • Include group breakout discussions. 
  • Plan for hands-on activities and demonstrations that allow employees to learn through doing. 
  • Include IRL assignments within eLearning modules, such as making a new connection with someone at a remote office, live group brainstorms, or hands-on tool use. 
  • Create a game or competition to incentivize learning. 
  • Implement microlearning opportunities throughout the workday. 


There you have it — how to deliver the training that your learners really want. 

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