December 20, 2016

Driving Engagement With a Clear Purpose

Written by Leslie Holcroft

Driving Engagement1.jpeg

What is the End Goal?

The principles of adult learning are founded on the notion that as we age, having a purpose behind learning becomes much more important. When we’re young, we are more likely to accept that the future may yield an unforeseeable need for the information we’re absorbing. We believe in the need for a well-rounded education, even if we can’t see an immediate need for certain pieces of information.

As we age, however, the room we have left for memory storage becomes smaller, so to speak, and we have more defined goals for the information we hold on to. An adult brain needs to know that learning more about a topic has a personal connection to something important that will definitely be of use in the future. Inevitably, whether they say so or not, the number one question your employees will need answered before a training session begins is “Why are we doing this?”  

Maintaining a Focus

As a business leader who already sees a need for the training materials, it’s easy to feel annoyed by this question and wish for some trust on the part of your employees, but allowing your trainees to understand the answer to the “Why?” question before beginning can make an enormous difference in how they approach, categorize,  and retain the information you are presenting.

Think about how you study new information when you are truly engaged. Perhaps, for example, you take notes. Note-taking feels much more meaningful and worthwhile if you know what specifics are important enough to record in your notes. Give your trainees an understanding of how this information will be important to them. Is there a set of questions they will have to answer at the end? Consider showing them the questions at the beginning. Will they have to memorize key words and phrases to use with customers in the future? Explain that before getting started.

All of what you are sharing with them is important or you wouldn’t have included it, but there is a big difference between a fact that must be memorized and an anecdote that serves to better illustrate a concept. If the participants know what to pay attention to and listen for, they will be more engaged throughout.


Other than bits and pieces they may want to pay special attention to along the way, your audience should know what the overall objective is. There may be more than one, but try to limit your overarching objectives to keep things clear and simple. An objective is a clearly defined goal with a means for assessment. For example, your objective may be that by the end of the training session, participants will be able to bring a customer through a problem-solving process over the phone to troubleshoot a technology issue. To assess completion of that goal, participants may engage in a role-play exercise at the end of the training. Objectives start with an acknowledgement of time frame and audience, then end with an assessment of the goal.

Whatever the objective, by the end of the training, your participants should be able to tell if they’ve collected and retained the information they need moving forward. In the next posting of this series, we’ll discuss how to maintain engagement throughout the training session by actively involving the participant at assessment intervals. Ultimately, the goal of your training is employee takeaway and change, and that’s only possible if the goals are shared with your participants.


Leslie Holcroft

Leslie Holcroft is a professional educator in North Kingstown, RI.

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