eLearning As A Way To Improve Employee Engagement

eLearning As A Way To Improve Employee Engagement
Summary: If eLearning is the next major paradigm shift in Western economies, and employee engagement is a major problem in Western economies, can eLearning help improve employee engagement? Yes... but!

Can eLearning Improve Employee Engagement?

Let us discuss whether eLearning can help improve employee engagement. But, first, an overview: What is eLearning? eLearning is the utilization of electronic technologies to access a curriculum or courses outside of a traditional instruction/learning environments such a training room, lecture setting, or classroom. So, courses conducted or distributed via the internet can make the location of the instructor and the learners irrelevant, and in some cases the time at which the instruction/learning takes place can vary. eLearning is either interactive with open communications between the participants and the instructor, where participants can “raise their hands” and the instructor can pause and answer, or the lecture may be pre-recorded and the learners watch and take notes.

How Big Is eLearning?

Over $56 Billion is going to be spent on eLearning this in 2016 and Learning Management Systems (LMS) alone will account for $7 Billion of this.

How Important Is Learning Of All Kinds To A Nations’ Economic Health?

The correlation between income and educational attainment is well documented. Education is also linked closely to individual prosperity, opportunity, growth, and happiness levels. And of course as the individual income and educational attainment goes, so goes the nation’s.

Are Western Economies Getting Teaching/Learning Right?

Apparently not. The USA spends $621 billion on education. And we all know the result of this expenditure. The condition of K-16 education systems in the USA and Europe (with the exception of Finland) is abysmal. In 2016 the USA ranks 25th in reading, 36th in math, and 28th in science amongst 36 developed nations.

Are Western Countries Engaging With Their Employees?

No. Over two thirds of employees are not psychologically engaged with their job. I contend that poor K-16 educational achievement has to play some part in this. High schools statistics are bad and getting worse. But surveys also reveal that businesses and colleges agree that we are doing a poor job of preparing graduates for today’s economy, leading to low engagement.

Cause And Effect 

As the statistics prove, the methods by which we traditionally teach and learn are simply not working in our K-16 education system. So, using this new technology –eLearning– simply to digitally replicate those traditional methods would seem like a very poor investment; either in schools, colleges, or the workplace. As we all know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of madness.

The cause and effect is clear. If we are educating our citizens poorly, and the correlation between education and happiness is not in doubt, then it is not a surprise that employees' psychological engagement with their job is less than one third in the USA.

  • I contend that the cause of this employee engagement problem is education, and so the solution must be education. 
  • And eLearning has presented itself as an opportunity for better learning and teaching. We should embrace it. 
  • But, if we simply use this new technology as a digital delivery platform for traditional learning and teaching without changing the underlying broken paradigm, then the opportunity is wasted.

A Dual Track Strategy 

  1. Improve learning outcomes through the obvious benefits of Learning Management Systems, and
  2. Use these new platforms to fix what’s wrong with the learning/teaching methods we have traditionally used.
  • The good news is that it is really obvious what is wrong with the schools and hence learning/teaching in businesses: We have put answers on a pedestal. 
  • The other good news is that it is also obvious what should happen: Schools and especially businesses should put questions on a pedestal.

It is not difficult to understand why we have focused trillions of dollars on getting students to search for answers. There is ample evidence that using techniques and technology to identify, retrieve, and transfer facts from where they are stored –in the cloud or on a company server– to a local storage unit has changed everything. It is now cheaper and faster to retrieve digital information than ever before: Look no further than Google’s balance sheet.

In a hundred years, historians will probably divide modern civilization into pre-HTML and post-HTML eras in the same way we called the time before we invented writing pre-history, and history as the time after writing; the gift that civilized us. The date will be marked as 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee first deployed the World Wide Web and launched the Golden Era of Digitization.

So, we can get facts in seconds that used to take forever to find – I remember the Dewey Decimal library cataloging system. Trust me, accessing facts was no picnic back then. My grandchildren have it easy.

The Missing Ingredient 

  • Answers are not the Holy Grail of learning. Questions are the Holy Grail of learning. 
  • An answer is a stop sign. A question is an open road. 

Online Learning Management Systems, blended learning techniques, authoring and publishing tools, content management systems, assessment and testing systems, mobile learning, and learning using social media are all amazing advances in the realm of teaching and learning. But, as I said earlier, a quick look in the rearview mirror tells us that the learning and teaching model we have been using has failed. The question is why?

The missing ingredient in all this is thinking. Knowing how to get answers is not thinking! But we have taught generations of people that it is. And they all work for you!

This has gotten us into trouble, and by far the largest symptom of that trouble is the lack of engagement by employees.

Employers need people who can do more than remember or find facts. Facts are objective truths. The answer to objective questions is the same whether it comes from a student in Sacramento or an employee in Eureka. The student or employee gets it right or not.

What we as a human beings do best is not just finding factual, objective answers: Machines do that better than us. What we do best is address issues that do not have a right or wrong answer. What we do best is analyze subjective questions to which there is no right or wrong answer, only a well thought-out opinion. And the vast majority of the problems we will all face in life and at work are subjective in nature. Is that the best marketing plan, hire, car, house, or spouse? Who can prove any of those subjective issues right or wrong until time has passed? An opinion on a subjective issue needs retrospect to be proven or otherwise. That makes getting our opinions, or points-of-view, as right as possible critical - and that takes thinking.

  • If I am an employee and I am only trained to find facts, I am at an evolutionary dead end and I know it; and I am disengaged with my job. 
  • If I am a business and my employees only know how to find facts, I too am at an evolutionary dead end; however, I may not realize this until too late. 
  • If I am being paid to think, I will engage with my job and evolve.

It is a given that eLearning must advance society by making facts available at the speed of light. eLearning, however, must also be deployed to help employees think critically, collaborate, solve problems, and clearly communicate an option to the subjective problems businesses and people face. That is a competitive edge and that competitive edge is becoming easier to gain as long as eLearning is deployed in service of thinking; not just fact-finding.

The cause and effect between a) the lack of appropriate skills and therefore readiness for the workforce by graduates and b) low employee engagement is hard to miss.

Just at the time when companies need thinkers, creative problem solvers, collaborators, and clear communicators in order to evolve and prosper and compete, we are teaching generation after generation that memorization and critical thinking are the same thing. We are treating people like machines (Homo Economicus as David Brooks controversially calls workers) when in fact we are at our best when we are "needy" companions working to get it done by getting along; emotions rule most of what we do.

We have an opportunity through advances in eLearning to solve a huge problem. We can use eLearning to improve employee engagement by giving them the tools to be involved –to have a voice– in making decisions on the subjective issues that are the only opportunity for a culture of continuous innovation. Or we can simply make eLearning all about retrieving facts.

How To Use Learning Management To Improve Employee Engagement 

  • Do not make eLearning all about transmission of facts and data.
  • Make the eLearning collaborative tools the pre-eminent aspect of all eLearning.
  • Use collaborative tools to model the way a team should work. And by that I mean
    1. Observe the rules of teamwork/collaboration.
    2. Think critically.
    3. Address problems.
    4. Clearly communicate an agreed upon solution.

So, Can eLearning Help You With Low Employee Engagement? 

Yes, it can. It is a huge opportunity to solve a deadly problem: Two thirds unengaged with their job! Why would we not try to solve that problem?

Just remember, thinking about subjective issues is all about questioning. A question begets an answer. And an answer is not greeted with "right" or "wrong"; it begets another question, and so on. Don’t just answer the question; question the answer.

I have spent years developing my method to help address this problem. My Terego Enterprise Team Methodology emphasizes the development of a bottom-up culture through collaborative critical thinking and problem-solving, where each voice counts, questioning is the modus-operandi, and clear communication of a shared vision is the outcome.

This results in a flatter organization and a lessened emphasis on the traditional, top-down, hierarchical, command-and-control culture.

Want to know how? Watch my free twenty-minute tutorial hereAnd/or get my handbook A Thought Leader's Guide To Enterprise Teams.  It's free today only.

It gets results.” Alan Solinger Ph.D.

A must for anyone engaged in human capital development.” Ann Miller PMP.

And as usual, please, share.