10 Reasons your L&D programs are boring – and what you can do to fix them.

Signs your learning & development programs are boring

“If yesterday’s L&D was about instructor-led classes and web-based e-learning platforms, today’s workforce increasingly demands learning that’s engaging, personalised, mobile, and immersive.” And yet those demands are rarely met. A huge number of organisations are satisfied with their checkbox learning and development programs; regurgitating the same old training courses.

“The reason training offerings aren’t more successful isn’t because of the people that attend them (or don’t attend them) — it’s because of the courses themselves.”

Data show that less than 25% of L&D professionals are willing to recommend their program to peers – which means they kind of already know they aren’t great…

For those of you who don’t know (or are on the fence), here are 10 sure signs that your learning and development programs are indeed, incredibly boring.

1. Your L&D courses are way too long

Attention spans are shorter than ever. People want to get to the point faster. A two-day long training course in management 101 probably isn’t necessary (or desired) in 2018. In fact, long drawn out training sessions are at the heart of what makes L&D punishingly boring.

What you can do about it: Shorten the courses and programs. Create more development opportunities, more often. 100% of L&D professionals agreed that learning in the future will be done in short timeframes, using ‘micro modules’ to provide more focused learning and achieve better results.

So start trimming the fat now. Don’t feel the need to compress all of your L&D programs into a couple of days a year. Spread them out and people will spread the love in return.

2. Your programs are (almost) the same, every year

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the outcome to change.

No one wants to re-hash last years IT training course. Give your people some L&D variety and variable rewards. That’s what gets and keeps people engaged.

What you can do about it: Don’t be afraid to try something new. While there will always be a place for some of your traditional programs, there is also needs to be a place for some new programs and approaches which better gel with the workplace and workforce of today.

Here’s a few ideas from 10 companies with great learning and development programs.

3. Your L&D programs are siloed

The reason most of us have fond childhood school memories are because of friends; because of the people we interacted with while ‘studying’. Creating (or making people sit through) online training courses alone is not fun. For anyone.

What you can do about it: Create L&D programs which are centered on collaboration and teamwork. Almost any learning activity can be turned into a team activity; and almost any team activity is more engaging than an individual pursuit. Collaborative elements are fun – and also great for your culture and organisational health.

4. What your people learned from your programs was easily Google-able

The world has changed a lot. Reading a management book or listening to an instructor used to be one of the only ways to learn something. Today, we have cell phones, iPads, computers, podcasts, blogs, and free online courses. You might not be able to create something truly original in this content saturated world we live in, but at least make it something semi-difficult to Google.

What you can do about it: Focus on L&D through people rather than through information. Having an ‘expert’ or respected leader hold a fireside chat is a great way to to ensure what your people are hearing is news to them too. It’s tacit knowledge embedded in a passionate individual – which is usually far more engaging too.

Or run a mentoring or coaching program.  A mentor or coach crafts their advice directly for the individual, and each mentor/coach has unique domain advice and genuine support and empathy for the person.

Here’s 5 reasons a mentor will always be better than Google.

5. Your L&D courses are irrelevant and/or not applicable

One of the main thing that frustrated people about school (and specifically algebra) was that they wondered, “But will I ever use this”. A sure fire way to bore people is to teach them something that is completely irrelevant to them.

And by irrelevant, I mean not applicable to what they do and of no interest.

At the very least, every course should have a tangible outcome or learned skill or behaviour that someone can apply to their work or life.

What you can do about it: Reverse engineer the way you think about your learning and development programs. Instead of ideating about what development programs to build, ideate about what outcomes or skills you want your employees to get out of the program.

This way, there will be a point to each program – and therefore the program will be more engaging.

6. You offer the same L&D programs for everyone

Doubling down on number 5 above, there is nothing worse than having to sit through a training course designed for sales because it’s compulsory for all departments. There are a few facets of work which are applicable to all – and others which are definitely not.

Even management (which is generally seen as a nice-to-have skill for all) might bore the hell out of a person who never wants to be a manager.

What you can do about it: Create more catered programs or have people elect to be involved.

Creating more segmented programs results in more relevant programs for each group or cohort. And having people elect to be involved ensures that they will be more engaged and eager to learn that chosen subject.

Worried about people not ever electing to learn? You probably don’t have to be (or you might want to hire new people), but if so, offer the L&D program schedule at the stat of the year and tell people they have to choose 3, or 4 etc.

7. There’s no goals or gamification involved in your programs

People desire progress. If they’re not progressing, they get bored. That’s why people leave organisations when they’re not progressing (getting promoted, learning new things etc.).

Luckily, there are easy (and fun) ways to reverse this lack-of-progress trend. 

What you can do about it: Have your people start the year with a list of goals or objectives which they want to achieve. Then align these goals with specific programs. People who naturally seek progress want to check their goals off, making them more committed to doing what it takes to achieve them.

You can also gamify your L&D courses or processes. Create a leaderboard for the year, with those who finish the most courses or get the most right answers sitting loud and proud at the top. Instilling a sense of competition and layering game theory onto some of your more mundane programs is proven to take them from boring to exciting.

8. There’s no accountability around your L&D programs

People want to feel as though they are doing something worth doing; they want to feel as though there is a relationship between their input and output. There’s nothing worse than putting time and effort into something which goes unnoticed. 

What you can do about it: Measure the outcomes of your L&D programs. Make sure not to pressure people into feeling overwhelmed by the measurement or test, but make it challenging and fun.

Gauge the satisfaction of participants too. People want to feel as though their opinions matter; especially on things directly applicable to them and their peers/team. Ask them what they thought. Don’t just run the program in an abyss.

9. None of your L&D programs involve self-direction

Your employees are adults. And while all people need a little bit of guidance and a good push (shove) in the right direction, they don’t want to be babied and do want to feel in control of their own destiny.

Empowering people to drive their own development results in a deeper level of fulfilment and stronger self-confidence.

It creates a self-perpetuating engine of development which doesn’t need constant oversight and funding to keep moving in the right direction (people move it in the right direction).

What you can do about it: Provide employees with tools which enable them to be autonomous. There are hundreds of amazing B2B tech platforms dramatically improving the employee experience; from platforms which enable them to better monitor their general behaviours and fitness, to platforms which enable them to access mentors, set goals, and track their personal progress.

10. No part of your L&D strategy is experiential

Most of us have heard of the 70:20:10 model, which holds that workplace training should involve approximately 70% of on-the-job (job-related) experience, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal education events.

Most L&D practitioners are pretty good at 10% formal education – and even solid on the 70% job-related. What more aren’t good at is interaction with others and experiential learning. 1/5th of an employees knowledge should be derived from interaction with others. In a workplace filled with Slack and other messaging/productivity tools, this number is in drastic decline.

What you can do about it: Find ways to make your people interact and engage. Have them do job switching for an afternoon or week; run a mentoring program connecting people from different departments or level of hierarchy; or run team events or mentoring circles where people can freely communicate and learn from one another.

I hope you didn’t check all of the boring learning and development program boxes. If you checked a few, you have some work to do.

But fear not; if you have boring L&D programs, at least you have L&D programs – which means you have something to work with, measure, and improve.

May the boredom not be with you or your people.

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Heidi is the Co-founder and COO of Mentorloop. She's passionate about all things mentoring, Kenny Rogers and Italian Greyhounds.

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