How to turn L&D Disengagement into Employee Retention

By Pratheeksha Mani

June 26, 2022


Employee disengagement is one of the biggest perils of current learning solutions. In a recent survey, 36% of L&D professionals identified employee engagement as the third biggest challenge they face. Getting managers to prioritize L&D and creating a learning culture were identified as the first and second biggest challenges, respectively.

This article focuses on why conventional learning methods, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), internal training, and academy-led training, lead to high employee disengagement. We then move on to explaining the top strategies to improve employee engagement in L&D and thus boost retention. After all, a strong learning and development program is key to enhancing employee retention, according to 88% of HR leaders.

Problems with Traditional Learning Solutions That Lead to Disengagement

Why do current L&D solutions lead to employee disengagement and thus poor retention? Let’s find out!

1. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Platforms such as Udacity, Coursera, and EdX have massive open online courses (MOOCs) that learners can access at no cost. Moreover, they can complete the course at their own pace, in their own time. Despite the benefits, however, MOOCs are known for poor completion rates.

Here’s why:

  • Impersonal nature: A single instructor trains thousands of learners at once, with no scope for one-on-one communication. At times, there is no instructor at all.
  • No learner feedback: Most MOOCs don’t facilitate learner feedback, which is why employees end up repeating their mistakes.
  • Lack of in-person motivation: While MOOCs typically experience high enrollment, most learners fail to complete them due to the absence of in-person motivation and lack of deadlines. 
  • Not all employees prefer a work-as-you-please or self-motivated environment. Such employees need a more structured learning atmosphere.

Result? High L&D disengagement! There is a need to recognize the individual preferences of employees to craft a tailored L&D program. Let’s talk about the second traditional learning solution. 

2. Internal Training

Research confirms that 40% of new hires leave the organization within the first year due to poor training. This includes top talents.

Listed below are the main reasons why this happens:

  • Information overload: The main focus of internal training is to help new hires start being productive as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it often leads to information overload, which is why employees end up being disengaged and eventually leave the organization.
  • Ineffective training methods: Internal training is mostly delivered through in-person seminars, presentations, and PDFs, which, naturally, fail to hold the attention of employees.
  • Poor feedback and support: Similar to MOOCs, internal training lacks continuous employee support and periodic feedback. About 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing check-ins and feedback are necessary for L&D.

This brings us to…

3. Academy-Led Training

The problem with academy-led training is that it fails to apply an application-oriented approach. When employees can’t apply their learnings to real-life work scenarios, it causes disengagement.

In the next section, we talk about ways to boost L&D engagement. 

Steps to Improve L&D Engagement and Thus Retention

Employee engagement is the one thing that differentiates successful L&D programs from ineffective ones. Engaged employees are more likely to complete their courses and stay with the company.

Listed below are the top strategies you can adopt:

1. Create Learner Personas

The number one principle followed in marketing is to understand your target audience. This applies to L&D as well. One of the best ways to improve L&D engagement is to involve learners during the data-gathering phase of your training cycle.

Conduct in-depth research of their current skills and needs to design an effective program. Otherwise, who would want to spend time learning things that aren’t relevant to them? The best thing you can do is create learner personas.

Personas are representations of the common characteristics of your target audience. They can include:

  • Demographics (location, education, gender, age)
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Challenges and motivations
  • Media and technology preferences

Additionally, keep learners in the loop even during and after the program to ensure ongoing support. 

2. Align Career Paths with L&D

Your L&D solution must be in sync with employees’ tentative career paths to enhance engagement and retention.

When employees see career growth opportunities within the company, whether through promotions or lateral movement, they are willing to stay. Your L&D program must thus go hand-in-hand with an employee’s career path.

3. Use Blended Learning Methods

One of the major reasons why employees feel distracted is the lack of innovative learning methods. Use a blended learning approach consisting of gamification, interactive videos, bite-sized training modules, expert-led training sessions, and simulations that mimic on-the-job challenges.

4. Adjust to Remote Learning

As per research, over 4.7 million employees are working remotely in some capacity, which means they are either fully remote or following a hybrid schedule. Understandably, traditional face-to-face learning does not work for these employees.

Therefore, your company must pivot to remote learning to engage and retain your remote workers. Thankfully, modern learning methods mentioned in the preceding section can be easily delivered to your remote workforce. Make sure they get access to external industry experts as well. 

5. Incorporate Rewards and Recognition

Make rewards and recognition an inherent part of your L&D program. A little motivation goes a long way in engaging and retaining your employees. About 37% of employees consider personal recognition as an important factor in producing better work.

Apart from verbal recognition, you can award bonuses, time off, and incentives to top performers in your L&D program. It would also inspire other employees to give their best. 

Key Takeaways

Current learning solutions like MOOCs, internal training, and academy-led training often lead to employee disengagement for a variety of reasons. An impersonal nature, lack of feedback and support, absence of an application-oriented approach, and ineffective training methods top the list.

Clearly, there’s a demand to embrace newer strategies to boost L&D engagement and thus encourage employees to stay with the company for a long time. Some of these methods include creating learner personas, taking career paths into account, leveraging modern learning methods, facilitating remote learning, and using rewards and recognition. Explore AntWalk’s People Growth Platform to transform L&D disengagement into employee retention.

Pratheeksha Mani

Having a background in both Commerce and English Literature, Pratheeksha enjoys writing on a wide variety of subjects ranging from marketing to lit-blogs. Besides writing, she loves dwelling deep in the areas of existentialism and psychological realism.

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