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Should training be “fun”?

Should training be fun? Blog by Ben Siegel

We want training to be something that our participants can enjoy. We also know it takes a surprising amount of energy to pay attention to something that may not be front of mind. How is someone supposed to pay attention to the updated data retention policy when they have an email campaign starting this week? My approach has evolved on this to the point that I believe “fun” isn’t what we are aiming for, but instead I want training to be engaging.

In this context, engagement is the ability for someone to pay attention or stay involved with training. Fun is one way to maintain this involvement, but there is more than one way to get there. People in general like to be rewarded for their efforts, for example. If you promise lunch as part of a training lunch-and-learn, then people tend to show up. This makes sense because you are rewarding people for attendance, and a known, actualized reward is going to increase attendance for that reason.

Beyond food, there are other ways to engage your audience. One of the more recent ideas is gamification. By introducing some sort of game or competition, it incentivizes individual participation by providing either a prize or recognition. By answering questions at a later time, properly following procedure for reporting an incident, or handling a data subject request, the privacy office could reward the individual with a prize. Food, gift cards, a small plaque or other recognition are all ideas, but you can be very creative here. One example I have seen is letting the winner smash a hard drive that needs to be disposed of, tying deletion practices to some wholesome stress relief.

Most importantly, we want to keep the individual’s attention throughout the entire training or awareness campaign. If gamifying or otherwise trying to engage the users ends up pulling their attention away from the subject matter and only to the game or prize, that’s a problem. Your goal is to reinforce that subject matter and keep it front of mind. Don’t let fun ruin the learning experience.

The best thing about training is that it is not set in stone how it must be done. You can be as creative as you want and deliver training in the way you determine is best for your organization. Hopefully, it will keep your teams engaged and help them understand your message.