How to make corporate learning engaging?

What are the main challenges in corporate Learning & Development? According to research by Backboon (2022), the answer is remote work, hybrid learning and sufficiently engaging employees in learning processes – regrettably to the point where 52% of L&D decision-makers believe the learning they offer is not engaging enough.

At Workz, we help big corporations implement L&D strategies across all layers of their organisation, from leadership teams to young talents and new hires. This article gives you a brief overview of 4 methods that, in our experience, have a positive impact on corporate learning and development.


Games have been part of learning processes since antiquity, and not without reason. When it comes to learning, the game-based approach has some unique drivers that absolutely tickle the human brain. The social aspect and connectedness among players, the feeling of autonomy when seeing your choices affect the course of the game, and the opportunity to reflect on your actions in real-time, just to name a few.

Our take on serious games for corporate learning and development rely on these drivers. It helps players – be it new hires or leadership teams – bridge the gap between thinking and doing. And while the first well-documented serious game ‘Kriegsspiel’ was used to train Prussian officers back in 1808, Workz’ games accelerate our clients’ skilfulness in team development, strategy execution, stakeholder management and change leadership.

Engagement is key for what we do at Workz, and we find that gamification is a competent driver for just that. Whether we are designing a full day of in-person game-based training or integrating gamified elements in digital collaboration sessions, we notice that all gamified experiences have one thing in common: the active, attentive, involved – and perhaps even entertained – learner has the best conditions for understanding and absorbing your curriculum. This is valuable insights for corporate trainers and facilitators asking: How quickly before my students forget?

This is one of the reasons why we usually include games, gamified elements, and simulations as part of clients learning journeys.

self-directed learning

Self-directed learning puts the learners in charge. They define their own goals, decide on their learning strategies, and take action. It may sound somewhat haphazard, but this approach is anything but, when done right.

As you may gather, this type of learning calls for personal accountability since the reigns are a bit looser. Not to mention reflection and introspection. As a result, self-directed learning typically happens at a slower pace and the learning journey is longer.

In Workz’ context we have used this approach specifically when designing leadership development programmes. A key feature is to include several touch points to assist the learners in self-assessment and offer peer support. Even though the way we designed the programme would dictate the navel-gazing individual to be the point of departure, all goals were tied to organisational milestones and time frames. So don’t get it backwards, self-directed is not self-centred.

Although, there is something to be said for the deeply personalized aspect. Most people like to feel seen and included. When the learning journey considers who you are on a personal level, it becomes easier to ignite intrinsic motivation. Who wouldn’t want that in a student?

This was the case of Leading the ISS Way, a programme we built to help the facility service company roll out global leadership training.

blended learning

Blended learning seems ripe for the post-covid hybrid world: combining face-to-face and computer-mediated instruction. Although, during the pandemic, the idea that digital learning could replace in-class teaching became increasingly popular. From our point of view, this idea doesn't make much sense in pedagogical terms.

As human beings we thrive on connection and interaction, and we learn by literally "walking about" (peripatētikós, in old greek) as did Aristotle and his students. When we keep this in mind blended learning becomes a balancing act, and we should be mindful not to favour the digital aspect.

In fact, the sweeping presence of technology in our day-to-day work comes with risks. One risk relating to corporate learning is overestimating the role of collaborative platforms (real-time or not) such as MS Teams, Miro, Zoom or Slack. These platforms are tools through which we can deliver on an L&D strategy and not the strategy itself.

At Workz, we rely on physical elements in our learning design. From board game pieces, or tokens as they are called, to personal booklets, decks of dialogue cards and sometimes even cardboard boxes and confetti. Elements that make the learning journey intimate, tactile, and memorable. We are not saying you should put up an arts and craft station, we are saying be watchful you don’t get blinded by the ample offerings of digital solutions.

social and emotional learning

A recent study by HundrED and The LEGO Foundation describes social-emotional learning as a "process through which children and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions".

So, how does that fit into a business agenda? As committed devotees to the human side of change we see how soft aspects tied to social and emotional awareness such as trust, empathy, and culture play a significant role in either supporting or sabotaging corporate strategies and projects. The teachings that social and emotional learning has to offer is something businesses should welcome, no doubt.

(If you like, have a read on trust in leadership)

In our approach, social and emotional learning means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and roleplay has just the engine for that. Once you have accepted the premise of roleplaying you get to become someone else, and from here look at the world through a different set of lenses.

Not only is roleplaying a social activity which can boost learning morale, but learners are also part of a story line. This creates quite the anticipation and the learner’s attention span benefits a great deal from it.

Workz’ leadership simulations cast learners in the role as business professionals facing a realistic challenge such as a merger or a strategy roll-out. It’s entirely up to the learner and their choices how the story plays out. One key component that decides if they succeed in their role or not is their human touch i.e., awareness of cultural differences and personal preferences in their teams and the ability to foster autonomy and trust. In short, understanding the people around them.

The thing about roleplaying is whatever feeling it brings up during the session you remember it clearly. Frustration, disappointment, surprise, fear, acceptance, or celebration: feelings tend to stay with us for a longer time and engaging with feelings in a learning context has a big impact.