Have you been driving in your car and realized that you are three or four blocks further along in your journey than you consciously remember navigating? Can you relate to that feeling of suddenly “coming to” behind the wheel—not actually remembering the last few miles? It’s no laughing matter, but an unfortunately common phenomenon known as “highway hypnosis.” So, what causes this? Psychologists point to a number of factors, generally grouped into the monotony of the task, the fatigue and boredom of the driver, and the ease of the driving experience.
In 1929, a paper entitled “Sleeping with the Eyes Open” theorized that people in monotonous situations often tended to enter a sleep-like state without closing their eyes. Another example often cited is active disengagement in the workplace.
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a meeting or a workshop, doing your best to focus—to pay attention—but, despite your efforts, your mind keeps wandering off, fixating on the endless lists of things you need to do (or that you could be doing if you weren’t stuck in this room)! Or you’re working through your online training when you realize you’re at the end of the module and don’t have a clue what you just read. It happens innocently enough—one minute you’re focusing on training, and the next minute you’re thinking about picking up the dry-cleaning or booking a haircut.
A recent Gallup poll reported that a mere 29 percent of American employees are engaged in their work. That means a staggering 71 percent of workers are either passively unengaged (working just hard enough to get by), or actively disengaged. Actively disengaged employees have been exposed as one of the biggest drains on company resources, morale, and profits—a reality companies can’t afford to ignore.
So, what can we do about the disengaged learner?
1. Make learning relevant
Workplaces are becoming increasingly multi-generational. Fortunately, with the technology available today, you can personalize your learning strategy to specifically fill unique knowledge gaps and deliver it in a way best suited to each generation.
2. Make learning fun
Far too many employees see training as a boring, mundane and mandatory activity. With the advent of gamification in corporate learning, there has never been a greater opportunity to make training a truly fun experience. By adding social elements like gamification, and even tying in a rewards system to your training, employees may genuinely want to receive training.
3. Celebrate the successes
Since you can easily track modern learning, you have the ability to gather more data on employee learning than ever before. To understand how effective your learning strategy is, all aspects of it must be measured. Measurement will provide you the insight into where to invest training dollars to achieve the greatest return. Boost morale by acknowledging when employees graduate a topic or win a prize. Recognize and congratulate your top performers.
4. Make learning accessible
Mobile technology is allowing learning to travel far beyond the borders of a classroom. Your employees can learn when and where it’s convenient, and can even access just-in-time learning while on the job.
It’s time to wake up and rethink learning at work. When combined, these four re-engagement techniques will give rise to a future organizations like yours, achieve real knowledge transfer and translate that into proven business results.
Dig deeper into what makes learning really engaging—like 80%+ participation, 2-3 times a week—over here.