It’s no secret that attention spans are shrinking. One memorable study from Microsoft indicated that the average attention span is now just eight seconds. Time Magazine reported this fact with the provocative title, “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish.” This obviously presents significant challenges for training and development professionals, who are now trying to get goldfish-brained employees to remember more than ever, as the emergence of the Internet of Things creates mass information overload.
Not good. Overloading is only good when it’s on carbs, and even that’s questionable, let’s be honest.
The Training and Development Challenge
Social media has set new expectations for sharing information, with users becoming highly accustomed to having all relevant facts communicated at a glance. Advertisements are often limited to just five seconds and blog posts are set up in bite-size chunks (you’ll note the short, snappy sentences and headers here – this helps your hapless brain absorb information better, apparently). Many online articles range from 300-500 words, ensuring readers will complete the entire piece before moving on. Guess what? Shocker – because of all this short-term consumption, learners expect similar brevity from training programs, creating real challenges for those tasked with training design.
Training design becomes even more complex when you consider the diversity of learners in an average training session. Though most of today’s workforce has experience working with computers and navigating the internet, there are individuals who fall on the other end of the spectrum. These learners have shied away from the trend towards digital communication and online relationships, so they don’t tend to respond well to one-size-fits-all programs centered around elearning.
Fortunately, there are training techniques that appeal to a wide range of participants, engaging the entire audience, regardless of interest in and experience with popular software applications. These are five of the best methods for engaging 21st-century learners, regardless of their generation.
1. Introduce microlearning
Traditional training techniques are face-to-face or classroom-based sessions. All information is delivered over the course of several hours — or days — and learners are expected to retain and apply new skills if and when the opportunity comes up in their work. Instead, consider introducing microlearning: short, snappy training interventions which deliver a single specific concept or skill in a short program of 10 minutes or less (depending on who you talk to – length of ‘microlearning’ is quite the bone of contention in this industry. Nearly as contentious as learning styles, amirite?)
Either way, microlearning ensures that participants only interact in short intervals, increasing their retention of the information shared. Also – because it’s commonly used at the point of need, it ensures that information is more likely to be used and therefore retained.
2. Get involved with mixed media
Advances in technology have made it easy and affordable to create training programs that leverage an array of rich-media formats. Mix videos, infographics, reading material and hands-on skill building to create blended training programmes which appeal to a broad range of learners and time-sensitivities.
Celtic Manor has used this to great effect, and has had a huge impact on their young, dispersed learners as a result.
3. Challenge accepted
Gamification of training is a growing trend, thanks to its extraordinary effectiveness. Instead of simply presenting learning materials, encourage active participation by creating personal and team challenges. These tools typically offer a storyline, rewards and performance analytics, which transforms learning from a chore to a recreational activity.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could even let your LMS to help you do that.
4. Make recognition a core part of training
Weaving recognition into training programs gets participants’ attention, engaging them in the learning process. Celebrate unusual milestones using the philosophy that drives FitBit. This fitness tracker tool awards badges for unexpected milestones like the ‘Marathon’ for walking 26 miles since joining the program and the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ for walking 1,600 miles since joining the program. Tie company-specific recognition to training milestones for increased interest from learners, then be sure to celebrate their accomplishments.
5. Promote and encourage collaboration
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of collaboration. In a corporate setting, the active learning opportunities offered by a collaborative LMS environment is a surefire way to keep learners attentive. Creating collaborative programs doesn’t require all participants to come together in-person. Advanced technology offers multiple options for synchronous and asynchronous user participation in group activities.
Training and development professionals are moving away from traditional teaching methods, as learner expectations are changing rapidly. Keeping 21st-century workers engaged in the learning process requires ongoing innovation and application of new tools and technology that mirror their outside experience.
Want to do more to reach your learners? Creating more personalised experiences is one of the best ways – find out how to do it right in this free webinar on May 30th, 2PM BST: