You can have the best Employee Education Portal in the world. If your staff aren’t using it, you’re not going to enjoy the benefits of higher productivity, reduced onboarding time, or any of the other results made possible by such a system. Creating long-term, sustained engagement is vital — here are eight tips to make it a reality.
1. Factor in how and when new employees will use the system. One of the most important precedents you can set with new staff is the expectation that they will use the portal continuously throughout their time at your business. A key part of their early onboarding should be getting them logged into the system and identifying the courses or content that they must consume within a specific timeframe (such as their first week or month). Using the portal as an onboarding and training tool “forces” managers and HR staff to keep it up to date rather than falling back into old habits (e.g. explaining everything verbally).
Don’t forget that your onboarding process should contain a feedback component for your new recruits. Have a formalized place where they can identify any gaps or confusing areas of the training, so that you can optimize it for the next group of employees. In this way, your new employees can start adding value immediately.
2. Ensure your education system is designed to make their lives easier. The best way to ensure your employees engage with the system long-term is to build it with them in mind. A well planned portal that addresses more than just surface concerns of your stakeholders will be highly useful for that audience. If your portal is the easiest and fastest place for them to reach quality information that they need, then you’re likely to see them using it frequently. If it’s slow, cumbersome, confusing, or out-of-date, they’re likely to revert to their old techniques of acquiring information (e.g. asking a coworker or digging through the troves of old emails). Or, they’ll just wing it. And that’s the last thing you want them to do.
3. Make the portal a part of the day-to-day. A huge portion of your employees’ engagement on the system will come down to accessibility and time — and it’s the managers and leadership team who are ultimately responsible for that. Your staff will need to have all the tools available to get onto the portal wherever they work. (For in-office staff, this is probably desktops or laptops and an internet connection. For in the field or on-the-go workers, this is probably mobile or tablet access with a data plan.)
Similarly, they need to feel formally empowered to spend time on the portal — the culture at your organization should support its use; it shouldn’t feel like an afterthought or after-hours task. Whether this means mandating a 30 minute period of daily online learning or allotting a full or half day per month, launch the portal with clear expectations as to how frequently and actively you expect them to use it.
4. Add new content and certifications. Nothing catches our attention like “the new”. Keep your users engaged by adding fresh content and gamification elements to your portal. That means adding new materials, courses, functionalities, incentives, badges, certifications, and other rewards — and broadcasting that to your team. Remember to communicate anything new to your employees — it’s an effective incentive to get them back on the portal and re-engaging.
5. Consider real-world rewards. The science of gamification is proven; we humans love it and are motivated by it. But that’s not to say that tangible, real-world incentives aren’t important too. Depending on numerous factors, such as your team and your budget, you should consider incorporating rewards that equate online portal activities to offline advantages. Whether it’s something small, like a shout-out at the next team meeting, or a big prize like a half-day off or a group reward, anything that keeps the water cooler buzz focused on your portal is a good thing.
6. Set a mandatory curriculum and assign someone to manage it. There’s the carrot (see #5), and then there’s the stick. For some, the best motivation is to be told that using the portal is mandatory and that its use (or lack thereof) will directly affect performance reviews. The trick is clear communication: set expectations early and reinforce them often. For instance, your organization might mandate that there’s content everyone must read by a certain date or a course that each employee must re-take annually. Outlining these requirements and tying it to their overall performance is strong motivation to get staff using the portal in the desired way.
Setting a rule requires someone to enforce it. There has to be an assigned person who is accountable for monitoring the portal’s use and driving the rewards/discipline structure. This could be an HR person, the manager of the department in question, or even its own role. This person should be accountable for communicating to the team on an ongoing basis, tracking employees’ use on the portal, and reporting to the executive team about the results and opportunities for optimization.
7. Ask for feedback and contributions. Your employees are the ones using this system on a day-to-day basis. They need a venue to make suggestions. Whether it’s as informal as directing their comments to your portal’s champion, or as formalized as a bi-annual feedback survey, you should be proactively gathering their feedback, analyzing their suggestions, and acting on the appropriate ones.
You can also ask for staff contributions for the content itself. The system is, after all, for them. Find out what they’d like to read more about or what knowledge they have to share. Whether they’re actually writing the content or acting as the thought leader to your content provider, they’re more likely to engage with the portal when the content is meaningful to them.
8. Use the insights to make changes that will boost engagement. Your portal will generate a wealth of data that — collected and analyzed properly — can help you optimize the program itself. Prior to launch, devise a system about the collection, monitoring, and analysis of the data — including how frequently the numbers will be pulled, who’s accountable to create the reports, and with whom this information will be shared. The insights generated from your measurement activity can help you optimize the portal.
You’ve built an Employee Education Portal to help your employees do better work more efficiently and effectively. Now they have to use it. Help them to build a culture of long-term engagement by setting precedents early, and adopting rewards and incentives that are right for your business. As always, monitor and measure the results of all your activities and tactics — the insights in your data are invaluable.