Six Things the Most Engaging Learning Environments Have in Common

March 10, 2023 | Activate Learning | 8 min read

Businesses are investing in workforce transformation to stay competitive. Those investments won't mean much if employees don't seize the skill-building opportunities on offer.

Change is the only constant in today's economy. As markets shift and technology evolves, businesses must regularly reassess and readjust their goals and strategies to stay competitive. That's why workforce transformation has become a top priority. By closing skills gaps, companies can cultivate agile workers who can handle any challenge that comes their way.

But transformation is far from easy. According to one study, as many as 78 percent of corporate transformations fail. On the bright side, that research also identified one crucial factor for a successful transformation: employee engagement. The authors write, "Our findings revealed that companies that successfully transformed themselves shared a common focus on initiatives that prioritized employees."

Engagement is especially vital in learning and development (L&D). Workforce transformation requires employees to develop new skills, so businesses understandably invest in skill-building opportunities. But these investments won't amount to much if employees aren't engaged and actively seizing the chance to learn. On the other hand, when learners are engaged, they consume more content, participate in live skilling experiences, and retain more of what they learned.

To maximize the return on workforce transformation investments, companies need L&D programs that engage employees, motivate them to keep coming back, and inspire employees to encourage their colleagues to participate. But what does a genuinely engaging L&D program look like? Here are six things the most motivating learning environments have in common:

1. Personalization

In their everyday lives, learners are used to apps that make it easy to find content relevant to their likes and interests. Think about how platforms like Netflix and Spotify deliver tailored recommendations to users based on shows they've watched and songs they've listened to and marked as favorites.

Learners want the same personalized experience from L&D programs. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to training, employees want skill-building opportunities that meet their specific needs and help them reach their unique career goals.

Skillsoft Percipio, Skillsoft's immersive learning platform, helps learners personalize their training in various ways. For example, learners can use Skill Benchmark diagnostic assessments to gauge their proficiency levels and identify areas for improvement. Skill Benchmarks don't just help employees understand their personal skills gaps — they also provide personalized recommendations for videos, hands-on practice labs, and other learning experiences to help close those gaps.

Learners also get a personalized home page in Percipio. When employees log in, curated content recommendations based on their interests, activity, and learners with similar profiles welcome them to the platform. Learners can even personalize the language: All of Skillsoft's English-language video courses feature machine-generated closed captions so employees can read video dialogue in their native languages.

At a higher level, organizations can tailor training to better align with the strategic needs of the business. Companies can curate custom learning paths leveraging Skillsoft content, their proprietary content, and other providers' content in the Skillsoft platform. That way, organizations can manage all their training for all their learners in one location.

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2. Encouragement

A sense of accomplishment can be a powerful motivator. It reinforces the idea that training isn't just an abstract exercise but an effective way for learners to progress toward real-world career goals. That's why it's important to build recognition into any L&D program.

Gamification is one way to encourage learners by rewarding their efforts. For example, in Skillsoft Percipio, learners can earn Digital Badges for completing courses, Aspire Journeys, and company-specific custom tracks and journeys. Digital Badges validate employees' skills, and that validation encourages them to keep learning. Digital Badges are proven to boost login rates by 28 percent, learner return rates by eight percent, and course completion rates by 10 percent.

Employees can also set their own weekly learning goals and achieve streaks by meeting those goals. Learners can also enable optional push notification reminders to help them stay on track. And when they want to reflect on how far they've come, they can visit their personal achievements page, where Skillsoft displays all of their accomplishments in one convenient location.

3. Guidance

It's essential to have a broad array of learning content that supports all kinds of learners, from new hires brushing up on communications skills to seasoned tech pros who want to master AI engineering. At the same time, turning employees loose in a massive content library can be overwhelming. If learners can't find relevant training materials when needed, they may log out and never return.

Of course, the solution isn't to limit the scope of an L&D program. Instead, it's to offer employees guidance to navigate all available options easily.

One way to effectively guide learners is to organize content into clear, structured paths. For example, Skillsoft curates all content into channels, which map to in-demand skills or competencies like machine learning, leadership foundations, and agile methodologies. Learners can simply head to the appropriate channel to find content in a specific domain.

For more focused learning experiences, Skillsoft offers Aspire Journeys. Aspire Journeys are pre-curated, role-based, and skill-based learning pathways. Journeys organize the experience into a simple linear path that takes the learner from Point A to Point B. — for example, from "Python Novice to Pythonista." Organizations can also customize Aspire Journeys to align with the specific skill sets needed to pivot their workforce.

Employees may also need guidance and encouragement to return to their skilling effort after a long period away. That's why Skillsoft sends automated re-engagement notifications to learners who haven't logged into the platform in the last 30 days. These reminder emails contain personalized recommendations that help employees dive back into their development.

4. Choice

It can be helpful — and even necessary — to assign required learning, but employees are generally more engaged when they can take an active role in their development. In particular, employees want a say in how they learn because the same experiences aren't practical for every learner.

Skillsoft gives learners choices by offering content in various formats: videos, books, audiobooks, practice labs, assessments, live events, and more. Learners can choose content based on their preferences and their needs. For example, learners who absorb information better through text can read books, while learners who prefer visuals can watch videos. Similarly, learners can reach for microlearning options when time is short and try hands-on practice sessions when they have space in their calendars for more focused learning.

5. Learning in the flow of work

Learners don't always have time — or a need — for long, formal training sessions. Sometimes they hit a minor bump in their workflow and need to quickly pick up a new skill or piece of knowledge to proceed.

Lynn Ross, senior director of global operations training and development at Equinix, uses the example of a person preparing to go on a bike ride only to have their chain fall off:

You probably wouldn't sign up for an in-person course on bike maintenance or take time out of your day to engage in a 45-minute training session with a quiz at the end. Instead, it would likely be most useful to you to watch a two-minute YouTube video showing you how to fix the chain.

Employees are more likely to seize learning opportunities incorporated seamlessly into their days. To support that kind of approach, the Skillsoft Percipio app for Microsoft Teams enables learners to access the full functionality of Percipio without leaving Teams. Similarly, The Embedded Learning Synchronized Assistant (ELSA) browser plugin lets learners find and consume content without leaving their browser tab. That way, employees don't have to drop what they're doing or sit through a lengthy, comprehensive session — they can learn what they need and immediately apply it to the task at hand.

6. Transformative Learning Experiences Anytime, Anywhere

Employees' schedules are hectic and unpredictable. They might sit down to start a training session only to be pulled away by a fire that needs putting out. By the time the crisis has been taken care of, the day is over, and they're closing their laptop, their training session left unfinished.

That's why convenience is key to learner engagement. The easier it is for employees to access skilling content when and where they need it, the more likely they'll take advantage of the skill-building opportunities available.

With the Skillsoft Percipo mobile app, learners can engage with content on the go or seamlessly switch between the app and the desktop version without missing a beat. For example, the hypothetical employee pulled away from their training can pick up where they left off on the mobile app during the train ride home. The mobile app also supports offline content, so learners can download books, videos, audiobooks, and other materials to dive into without Wi-Fi.

Learner Engagement Drives Workforce Transformation

Engaged learners complete more skilling experiences and retain more information, making it easier to achieve your organization's strategic business goals today and adapt as they evolve. The key to engaging learners is empowering them to learn what, how, when, and where they want. Remove the barriers, and employees will seize those skill-building opportunities.

After all, employees want to learn. Ongoing education is a top priority for talent today. According to Harvard Business Review, 86 percent of professionals would change jobs for a company that offered more professional development. If employees have an engaging learning environment, they'll take advantage of it — and your workforce will stay relevant no matter what the future holds.

From personalization to access anywhere, anytime, Skillsoft Percipio helps you engage learners and build the workforce your business needs to thrive in an ever-shifting economic landscape. Request a demo to learn more.