Developing a Learning Culture

How to improve engagement in your employee training

Employee engagement is a concept that defines the level of commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm that employees demonstrate to the organization they work for. When they are actively engaged with their employer, staff identify and relate with business aims and objectives. 

Engaged employees typically care for, and actively participate in, significant decisions regarding the strategic purpose and direction of the company. Well-thought-out employee-engagement training programs can help build employee motivation and engagement throughout the organization. 

Why is employee engagement training important?

A Dale Carnegie & Associates (DCA) study on employee engagement served to highlight that employee engagement isn’t at the top of every business leader’s list of priorities. Of the 1800 leaders surveyed, only 25 percent made employee engagement a daily priority. Thirty-seven percent did so occasionally, rarely, or not at all! These statistics are further puzzling, considering that the study also revealed that 71 percent of senior leaders believe employee engagement strongly impacts their bottom line, yet only 31 percent of the responding leaders are making it a priority.

Clearly, more needs to be done to educate and train business leaders on how to engage their employees. While many people-leaders recognize the importance of creating an engaged workforce, few of them actively promote it. And those that do often struggle to measure and enhance those engagement levels. Why? Because the organization does not have formal employee-engagement training programs in place. 

Through well-planned and carefully channeled training initiatives, including training people-leaders in the art and science of employee engagement, corporate leaders can increase the levels of engagement their workforces have in the organization. If they succeed in doing that, they’ll build a committed workforce that’ll go “above and beyond” to ensure they remain highly competitive within their niche market. 

The importance of employee-engagement training for managers is often under appreciated. Highly engaged employees have higher levels of contribution to organizational productivity, resulting in higher profitability. Organizations that foster workforce engagement through better employee training also experience lower staff turnover and higher employee retention rates. Generally, engaged leadership experienced higher (64 percent) team retention than leaders who don’t make it a priority (32 percent). 

Engaged employees take more pride and joy in the work they do than generally disengaged employees who appear detached from the company’s mission and purpose. They (engaged employees) are also more committed to the organization’s success. One way to maintain and enhance engagement levels is by improving engagement through employee training. 

Employees who are “plugged in” to their organization’s philosophies, aims, and objectives often transfer that spirit of engagement beyond the confines of their workplace. They demonstrate that spirit through better customer service and by more actively promoting the company brand outside their offices or places of business.  

By planning suitably tailored employee-engagement training for managers, businesses not only increase the level of committed and engaged employees working for them, they also create a competitive edge over their industry peers that ultimately leads to better productivity and greater profitability. In the absence of such training, line managers and supervisors lack the appropriate knowledge and tools to stimulate employee engagement. 

What drives employee engagement in training?

People-leaders trained and equipped with the skills and knowledge to engage and connect with employees play a critical role in promoting employee engagement. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of managers have received that training, with a majority of them not possessing those skills. 

A larger paycheck. A bigger office. Reserved parking spots. Gym memberships. When it comes to satisfied employees, these perquisites matter. However, a “satisfied” employee isn’t necessarily “engaged” with the goings-on of the organization. That only happens when employees care about what they’re doing and the impact it has on their teams, the organization, and broader society. 

Engagement doesn’t just happen—it requires active cultivation and development across the organization. And that takes skill, talent, and knowledge to accomplish. It’s therefore important to offer training engagement programs to all supervisory and line-management staff so they can be the harbingers of broad-based employee engagement.

So, what drives employee engagement?

Employees who enjoy good working relationships with their peers, colleagues, supervisors, and line managers more readily engage with management and leadership. And staff members who understand and appreciate the role they play in the organization’s mission and purpose are also better engaged than their lesser-informed colleagues. 

Another driver of engagement is the passion and commitment that employees feel about their workplace and the organization they represent. An employee instilled with such zeal is more likely to display positive engagement with key organizational stakeholders—both internal and external—than staff who do not have that passion and fervor. 

Employee engagement drivers differ from organization to organization. Fostering such engagement, therefore, requires tailoring an org-specific training engagement program. While some employees, especially those with long-standing ties to the organization (e.g., founding team members), may display many of the prerequisites of engagement, broad-based employee engagement only happens through deliberate nurturing. And that requires key people-leaders to undergo personalized employee-engagement training.

How to develop employee engagement through training

Only 33 percent of managers agree that their organizations have provided them with effective training to engage with their staff. In addition to knowledge transference and skills building, training employees to perform the roles they’re tasked with is an effective engagement tool. Here are seven strategies to help develop employee engagement through training that training leaders should consider:

1) Make training engagement relevant to each role

For engagement initiatives to bear fruit, it’s vital that education, training, and outreach occur at all levels of the organization. Every role in the organization can benefit from engagement training. However, the benefits only accrue if that training is specific and relevant to the role. Mandating irrelevant training may, in fact, foster large-scale employee disengagement.

2) Provide flexibility

The more engaging a training experience is, the more uptake it has among the employee group such training targets. Engagement in training programs can only occur when employees see the initiative as being flexible and accommodative. This includes offering employees a choice of media and platforms (e.g., training that supports multiple devices or a course offered in more than one format—instructor-led, virtual, blended). 

Flexibility in employee-engagement training initiatives also requires offering scheduling discretion to employees. Mandating training at certain time slots or forcing employees to attend training on specific days or at specific locations may cause employees to disengage with the program.   

3) Measure employee engagement effectively

It’s rightly said that if you don’t measure things, you’re unsure whether you have enough of them! The same is true about employee training for engagement. Unless you effectively measure how engaged your employees are with a wide range of aspects of the organization, whether it is training and development programs or reward and incentive policies, your engagement initiatives won’t succeed. 

Why? Because lack of visibility of engagement levels will prevent you from taking appropriate remedial measures to boost engagement or from reinforcing measures that are apparently working. Some suggested ways to measure employee engagement in training include:

  • Regularly pulsing employees through training-requirement surveys
  • Holding one-on-one employee briefings to determine their views about training and on available (or lack of!) training opportunities 
  • The use of employee net-promoter-scores (NPS) feedback during seminars, corporate retreats, and workshops to gauge how committed employees are to specific aspects of the organization (e.g., training strategy, hiring and promotion policies) 
  • Conducting employee exit surveys to find out what departing employees think company management should (or could) do differently/better to foster dialogue and engagement

4) Task meaningful work

Never underestimate the power that meaningful work has on employee engagement. Results of a survey published in Harvard Business Review of nearly 3,000 professionals across 26 industries indicated that 90 percent of respondents would gladly take a pay cut in favor of meaningful work. Executives at some of the world’s most reputed companies (Google, Microsoft, and KPMG) also agree that finding meaning in work adds to employee engagement. 

Employees who don’t find their work engaging or compelling typically remain aloof from embracing the corporate culture and therefore tend to function like “disengaged spectators” within the organization. Through employee-engagement training for managers, corporate leaders can help people-managers build skills that encourage higher purpose amongst their staff and foster a spirit of “connectedness” across the company. 

5) Gamify your learning

When employees find training fun and exciting, they’re more likely to engage with organizational skills-building initiatives. Training programs based on traditional PowerPoint slides, text-based screens, and static (though well-illustrated!) infographics have limited engagement quotients. Typically, learners tune out and disengage after the first 15-20 minutes of exposure to such content.

The use of cutting-edge training methods such as simulations, game-based eLearning, roleplaying, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), are great ways to foster training engagement. They not only create more engaged learners but are also more effective at achieving higher levels of knowledge transfer into the workforce. 

6) Reward achievements

Whether it’s an employee scoring top grades in their onboarding training, salespeople achieving 100 percent (and beyond) of their sales targets, or an employee suggesting an incredible cost-cutting strategy, it’s vital to recognize your workforce. Rewarding employees for their positive achievements motivates them to do better while also breeding a sense of engagement in them and their co-workers. 

During gamified employee-engagement training courses, for example, individual learners might be recognized with leaderboard rankings, badges, and leadership credentials (Expert, Ace, Guru). Managers should also recognize high-performing employees at staff meetings, mention them in company newsletters, or have their photographs displayed on Honor Boards (virtual or physical).  

7) Develop training to advance their careers

While some training is mandatory (e.g., certification training or annual compliance training) and may or may not impact an employee’s standing with the company, career-advancing training is a great way to build employee engagement. When learners know that completing (and potentially acing) a course can push them higher up the organization hierarchy, they’re more likely to be better engaged with learning.

In addition to engaging with learners, trainers can also deploy training engagement tactics such as pre- and post-training surveys and feedback to gauge the level of success that training events have in meeting career aspirations. Personalizing each training interaction to meet specific learner career-advancement aspirations is a great way to motivate and energize employees toward the company mission and goals. 


Employee engagement training delivers more than just “satisfied” employees—it creates a loyal, dedicated, and committed workforce. This leads to higher employee retention rates, improved productivity, enhanced competitiveness, and greater profitability. We’ve discussed seven long-term strategies to develop employee engagement through training. You don’t need to wait to leverage training engagement, however. There are four things you can do today to improve employee engagement right away, including getting employees out of the office for meetings and lunch/learn sessions, gamifying your training, leveraging social learning, and improving employee-recognition programs.