I recently heard the story of a footballer who had an epiphany in the middle of a scrum.
It was a big game, a final, with tens of thousands of fans screaming as the football players packed together, all vying for the ball in the final few moments of the game. As the footballer pushed and stretched his already bruised body in the hope to grab the ball, the player had his epiphany. A thought flashed through his mind:
“This doesn’t matter at all, except that everyone here agrees that it does”.
In that moment, the footballer came to the realisation that this ball, these teams, the shouting fans, the millions of dollars spent on sponsorship and player salaries had no meaning in and of itself. A bunch of guys chasing a ball is hardly earth shattering.
Except… that the thousands of people watching, the men on the field and the people with the money agreed that it did. That this event did matter. This moment was not only important, it could be life changing.
The leap from this stadium moment, to our learning experiences, may not be as big as you think.
We know that for deep learning to occur there needs to be investment from the learners, there needs to be an agreement that the training experience matters.
Yet learners come to an experience with a wide range of motivations and for many, they may not agree that this moment (that you have worked so hard to create and perfect) matters.
Some learners will have been mandated to attend, others simply want to check a box and still more are a little suspicious that there will be any lasting impact.
How then can we foster and encourage learners to engage meaningfully with the training?
How do we move towards agreement that this training experience is important?
The pre-game matters
Your pre-training communication is vital in setting expectations and building meaning. Your training experience begins before people walk into the room or log on.
- Consider the way that you communicate with potential learners. Be clear about your expectations, share stories and share how this course will help them do a better job now and into the future.
- Invite suggestions or comments from people as to what is important to them in this particular topic, this will help you shape the content for your learners while also building meaning and investment.
Set the goals
Be clear about what you attend to achieve together in the training experience.
- Depending on the size of your group you may choose to develop a collective goal or goals that you will aim to achieve through the training experience.
- Learning is always more powerful when people are given the opportunity to have ownership of their learning.
Stay on their turf
Learners must be able to clearly see direct links to their work and life.
- If the learner can’t see how the training is relevant to their situation now, then learning is diminished. And if there is little relevance to their future endeavours, then you have lost them all together.
- We don’t have time to learn for learning sake. If the content is not relevant to the learner’s experience now or into the future, then is doesn’t matter to them.
Share the ball around
Your learners come to the training with a lifetime of learning and experience of their own. To drive up engagement, allow them to contribute meaningfully.
- Plan intentional time in your program where people can share their stories, ask their big questions and collaborate to solve problems.
- Try hard not to pack your schedule so full that you have no space for learner participation.
- Be flexible enough that if the group stumbles across a new way to tackle a key theme, you can step back from your plans and trust your own expertise and the group to come up with something interesting….
… or maybe even something that truly matters.