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Investing in Growth: Why Digital Learning Initiatives Improve Employee Retention

Boredom is expensive. In 2020, a French man successfully sued his employer for a $45,000 severance package claiming he suffered from unbearable boredom at work. Describing his job as a manager of a perfume firm as a “descent into hell”, the man argued that his monotonous duties made him feel depressed and disengaged.

Even beyond such extreme examples, boredom in the workplace, or bore-out, is a common phenomenon. According to a 2016 study, 43% of American office workers are bored. People in entry and mid-level positions are more bored than senior staff. Annually, boredom costs US employers between $450 and $550 billion, or $15,000 per employee.

Boredom also significantly impacts mental health with workers feeling depressed and suffering from health concerns such as insomnia.

Bored employees are less productive, less engaged, and more likely to quit. Three out of ten employees who leave their job cite boredom as the main reason, more than those who leave for a better salary. Recruiting and training new employees is expensive; a high staff turnover rate reduces morale and decreases productivity.

Unsurprisingly, the 2023 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report showed that keeping employees motivated and engaged is the main priority of executives.

So what should employers do to keep staff motivated and reduce boredom? Add weekly office parties? Bring puppies to work? One mind-blowingly effective solution: Offer opportunities to learn and grow.

Employers Have to Increase Motivation and Engagement

Lack of opportunity to learn new skills is the number one reason why employees feel bored at work. Eight out of ten American office workers say that learning new skills would make them more engaged and more likely to stay with their current employer.

If leaders can tackle the root cause of boredom at work by helping their workers grow, organisations will boost engagement, lower retention, and ultimately increase their bottom line.

However, more than simply offering skills training and workshops is needed to tackle workplace boredom and increase employee motivation and engagement. Employers have to ensure that the educational offers are relevant, foster a sense of community and ownership, and are well designed.

Digital or hybrid workplace trainings are a particularly suitable tool for upskilling and engaging employees as they can fit around individual schedules, support self-paced learning, and are more accessible to learners with specific needs or family obligations.

However, uninspiring trainings will do little to alleviate workplace boredom and can even place additional stress on an already bored and overwhelmed workforce. U.S. companies spend over $160 Billion on training and development, but if the trainings don't increase motivation and engagement, the investment won't pay off.

Productive Trainings Increase Workplace Satisfaction

Well-designed, accessible, and relevant trainings should be the cornerstone of every employee engagement strategy. When employees are qualified, they are more likely to feel fulfilled in their work, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction.

Keep the following three best practices in mind when creating trainings that work and see high returns on investment.

Advance Careers

Offering trainings that advance careers creates a win-win situation. Upskilling their workforce will allow corporations to meet future challenges, retain talent, develop more capable teams, and promote in-house. 75% of HR professionals report difficulties in filling positions due to skills gaps. By offering in-house trainings, employers can foster a culture of upward mobility to motivate staff and fill critical positions.

Progress towards a career goal is the main motivation for staff to learn. Upskilling and other training courses give employees the chance to build their skills, form new connections, become lifelong learners, and advance in their careers. According to a 2023 LinkedIn report, 9 out of 10 employees said that they would stay longer at their job if their company provided them with development and learning opportunities.

Meaningful trainings are connected to an employee's current work and their future aspirations as well as to the overall strategy of the organisation. They create future opportunities and an overall stronger workforce.

Create a Sense of Excitement

A training should never be a predictable sequence of PDFs, seminars, and videos that lull your participants to sleep. Instead, they should create a sense of excitement and agency. If learners feel they have agency over their educational journey, they will be more motivated and are more likely to complete the training. This means that whenever possible, learners should be given a choice about which unit to study first or how to progress in the course. Surprises will delight and engage participants. Create opportunities for unlocking additional and unexpected tasks and challenges and keep learners on their toes.

Moreover, unexpected topics and themes can open new and unexplored viewpoints for your staff that will ultimately broaden their horizons and allow them to discover new fields and interests. If your training manages to create a sense of adventure, it is more likely to motivate your employees.

Reward Employees

Rewards should be central to your training strategy – within the trainings and in a larger context. If employees are motivated to attend trainings and strive forwards in their careers, they should be acknowledged, rewarded, and celebrated.

You can create a training program where each completed course offers new learning opportunities, offer financial incentives by tying trainings to bonuses, or find other ways to positively recognise the efforts of your staff. Research shows that recognition boosts morale and improves self-esteem.

Within your course, ensure that participants remain motivated by adding elements such as leaderboards, reward points, or celebratory messages. Several studies have proven that these simple but effective tools increase motivation and engagement. By including a leaderboard in your course, employers can encourage friendly competition. Supportive messages will make participants feel appreciated and more willing to complete their training.

Don't underestimate the power of rewards and recognition. Employees who don't feel recognised are twice as likely to resign within the next year. Rewards are an easy and highly adaptable way to motivate employees.

What If Great Trainings Are Not Enough to Keep Employees Engaged?

Sometimes even the best-designed, most thought-through trainings will leave your employees cold. Incentives are a great way to increase engagement and motivation for trainings where the immediate advantage isn't clear.

If engagement rates in your trainings are low, consider adding storytelling elements to draw participants in. Storytelling is not only a tool to engage children, but it is also remarkably effective for adult learners. In corporate trainings, it can be used to increase learning outcomes and motivation and foster a sense of community.

Storytelling is a powerful tool to transform trainings into exciting adventures that boost learning outcomes and morale. Building more creative lessons and courses has multiple benefits for workplace trainings. Dr. Barbara Colombo, a professor of education and human studies at Champlain College, stresses the importance of creativity in education:

[...] creativity-related skills have been proven to help individuals deal with stress, increase wellbeing and life satisfaction, being better at managing negative emotions. Learning can be stressful and emotional – so by adding creative aspects to the curriculum, or blend creativity into the learning experience, students will have a better learning experience.

Dr. Barbara Colombo
Professor, Education and Human Studies, Champlain College

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to include creativity in course design. Let's take a look at why that is the case.

Stories Help Learners Retain Information

According to Harvard Business, learners are 20 times more likely to remember facts if they were presented as part of a story. It is difficult to remember isolated concepts and definitions. However, a story provides a framework that puts facts into context or creates an emotional connection which helps with retaining information.

Stories Increase Motivation

Immersing yourself in a story or going on a quest for knowledge is more motivating than simply following a PowerPoint or reading a PDF because it requires active participation. Learners who feel connected to the material are more likely to work through trainings successfully.

Stories promote organisational culture and values

Stories present a unique chance to create learning opportunities connected to an organisation's values and culture. Instructors can make strategic choices about what storylines to use for teaching and reinforce positive values through them. This can help to build a sense of community and shared purpose among adult learners, which improves employee motivation and engagement.

Not Just One Way To Engage And Motivate Employees

Nine out of ten organisations worry about employee retention. Losing talent and continuous recruiting are costly, affect company culture, and hurt the bottom line. Upskilling and lifelong learning are remarkably effective at motivating and engaging employees and reducing turnover. Storytelling is a great way to introduce an additional tool to your courses that will bring engagement levels to new highs.

Make sure your trainings are as effective as they can be by making them relevant, meaningful, and compelling. If you are unsure where to begin when transforming your workplace training into motivating adventures, talk strategy with us.

Frédéric Massart
Level Up Team
11 Jul 2023

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