How Can Audiences Get Involved in Their Own Learning?

Gina is the HR business partner, and she is also responsible for Learning & Development within a mid-sized IT company. She is planning a training program for one of the support teams but the team is currently swamped with work and they are not inclined to spend 2 hours, let alone 2 days, in a training room.

However, since the quarter is coming to an end and a training program has been budgeted for, she goes ahead full steam and contacts Liz, an organizational development (OD) consultant that she usually partners with, for all her training-related needs.

Liz has been an OD consultant with this company for quite some time and is aware that even if she puts her heart and soul into the program/workshop, the outcome for the audience is not always what she would typically expect. It’s as if people are not interested in the training; half the time they are on their laptops and some of them are running from one meeting to another, showing up for training only if time permits.

Liz and Gina have a two-hour meeting together and discuss the following to encourage participants to take ownership of their own learning:

  1. Develop agendas based on employee’s input

This approach will offer a huge morale boost for employees; demonstrating that their opinions matter and are being considered. They will be more likely to take the training seriously because they feel valued and will appreciate that the sessions are being tailored to share knowledge on topics they are interested in. You may not always have a clear winner in terms of agenda, but including what majority of the audience want to learn is a good start.

  1. Usefulness and urgency 

These days, people are in a hurry to get the job done. No one wants to know how this training will impact them a year from today. Promote the fact that this training will improve their work now. You can take it a step further by showing them testimonials from other employee’s which establishes the effectiveness of the training. For example, a customer support tech might not immediately understand how much easier their job will be with more training until they hear how it has helped them in their career.

  1. Ownership 

Instead of making training a checklist item, encourage employees to take charge of their own learning. Focusing on the end results and benefits will motivate them to take an active interest in the training program. Freedom to choose can be the biggest selling point for employees, instead of making them prisoners in the classroom.

  1. Expectation setting

At the start of the training session, ask participants to set goals for their training. Somewhere in the middle of the program, you should revisit the goals and check if they are being met, with the option to review material if the sessions aren’t aligning with your audience’s expectations. As a facilitator, you need to ensure that you keep improving on your work to personalize it to your audience. This will help build trust with employees when they see that their input is consistently being considered.

  1. Post-training support

Art Kohn, in Learning Solutions Magazine, proposed that the average person forgets 70% of what they are taught within 24 hours of hearing it. To enable better retention of learning material, you need to ensure that within the hours and days after training, they can use that knowledge directly so it becomes relevant to them. Give them enough time to reflect on the concepts before you move on from one topic to the other. You can also provide job aids for easy recall.

  1. Opportunity to practice 

Real learning begins after the session is over — on the job. Opportunities to use the knowledge and skills within their daily tasks ensures that employees will retain what they have learned. Also, once they see the results of the training in effect, it will be easier for them to take ownership going forward.


Involving participants in their own learning is critical to translate training time into business dollars. If the Learning & Development function must move on from being considered a checklist item, actively encouraging audience ownership is a prerequisite.


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