Are your learners falling off the learning cliff? Here’s how to keep them engaged on the learning journey.

March 21, 2019

According to the 2019 Workplace Learning Report, this year is the breakout year of the Talent Developer. With budgets increasing, L&D programs maturing, and executives buying into the importance of L&D, talent developers are poised to have an amazing year ahead.

But there’s still one problem, and it’s a pretty big one.

Most of the L&D pros in the report said that learner engagement is still one of their main challenges. So how can L&D deploy their resources to help improve engagement? One way is by optimizing for the learner journey, here’s how.

Learner Engagement Changes Throughout the Learner Journey

In his keynote at Talent Connect last year, Josh Bersin explained a very important point about learner engagement that, in our opinion, deserves some more air time.

Bersin explained that the learner journey isn’t a linear one. Here is how Bersin maps the learner journey instead:

Stage One of the Learner Journey: Excitement

The first stage of the learner journey is well understood, and in most top-performing organizations, it’s already a well-established program. The first stage, of course, is onboarding.

Most L&D pros have a robust learning component to their onboarding programs for good reason. According to SHRM, it’s been shown that a great onboarding experience makes employees 69% more likely to stay with an organization for 3 years or longer.

Bersin explains that when someone starts a new job they are usually highly engaged in their work. They’re learning the lay of the land, making new relationships, and are very open to learning new skills that will help them in their new role.

If you’d like to suggest some courses to new employees, we’ve put together this short list of courses that will help your new employees get up-to-speed quickly..

In terms of learner motivation, onboarding is an L&D pro’s dream scenario, but onboarding can’t last forever….

Stage Two of the Learner Journey: Apex

After about a year of being on the job, Bersin explains that employees have gained more experience and confidence in their role, so their thirst for learning decreases.

Bersin explains that what happens next is perhaps the most crucial stage for managers and talent developers alike. As an employee rounds the apex of the learning curve there are two scenarios that can happen:

  1. Falling off the cliff: The employee becomes increasingly settled into their role to the point where they’re no longer being challenged. Boredom seeps into their day and their motivation to do great work slowly diminishes.

  2. Growing wings and flying: The employee’s manager and L&D team can challenge them with new roles and responsibilities to put them back on learning path. The new challenges not only helps the employee grow, but also helps them reach their full potential within the organization.

As learners begin to slow down in their growth it can be challenging for them to find the motivation to level up their skills. They usually solve this problem by beginning to look for a new job that will challenge them again. That’s why managers and L&D pros need to work together to provide the initial lift to set the learner back on track, here’s how.

Stage Three of the Learner Journey: Flight

There are many ways that L&D pros can help experienced employees continue their learning journey. As we mentioned earlier, each type of learner is different, so the goal of an L&D pro isn’t necessarily to create one master program, but rather to create several different programs that can help address each learner in the organization.

Here are a few ways that talent developers can re-engage learners within their organization:

Help the Managers: One of the most important points in an employee’s career cycle is the performance review. This has been cited as a very stressful process for both managers and employees alike, and it’s the perfect place for L&D to help create a positive experience.

L&D can have a huge impact during performance reviews by helping managers frame areas of improvement with actionable courses that the learner can immediately take. Download our Performance Review Template for L&D Pros to get a head start.

Offer Upskilling Opportunities: Most learners are willing to learn new skills that would benefit their careers, but a lot of them don’t know where to get started. Talent developers can help employees discover new opportunities by sharing insights on the most in-demand skills.

Using research, such as the Top In-Demand Skills of 2019, L&D pros can create learning paths for different skills to help learners navigate the abundance of learning opportunities available to them. Take, for example, this learner story from my friend, Savannah, who went from an Email Marketer to a Demand Generation Manager by teaching herself the skills she needed using LinkedIn Learning.

Unlock Potential Leadership: Many individual contributors would like to become managers someday. Once they do, however, they often find themselves ill-prepared for the new tasks of managing people.

Get ahead of these skills gaps by suggesting leadership courses to employees who aren’t managers yet. Guiding them to courses such as Body Language for Leaders or Leading without Formal Authority can provide a positive challenge for learners who might have otherwise plateaued in their current role.

We have a full curriculum of new manager courses here to give you a solid starting point

Bookmark the Learner Engagement Playbook

To learn more about how to make the most of the learner journey, be sure to check out the Learner Engagement Playbook which has tactics, worksheets, and much more.