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Understand the ‘Learner Engagement Equation’ – comes from the Free Guide – ‘Are you frustrated by training that creates short term interest but not long term change?.

Understanding the Learner Engagement Equation (LEE) of ‘IFSO over Infinity’ is critical in order to understand the size of the challenge that we face.

  •   ‘I’ stands for Me: This element of  the    equation deals with the ‘What’s in it for me?’.  We’ve all been sent on courses, rocked-up   on the day and ‘just got through it’.
  •  ‘F’ stands for First Impressions: The Learner’s   mind-set has been ‘trained’ to think that    education/learning/training adds no real   value, thus the Learner seeks a first    impression that mirrors their mind set.
  •   ‘S’ stands for Support: The support that we receive from our Line Manager is critical to shaping how much   and how well we engage. A trivial comment can easily undermine our learning enthusiasm.
  •  ‘O’ stands for Opportunity: The learning has to be relevant to the Learner’s job and they have to see    immediate opportunities to practise what they have learnt.

I+F+S+O - Learner Engagement EquationOver Infinity = Learner Engagement - Learner Engagement Equation

Top Row of the Equation – IFSO

The four elements across the top of LEE make the acronym ‘If so’, which is deliberate, because if any one of these 4 elements is not better than expected, the Learner will revert back to their default, negative mind set. When engaging the Learner, the advice to remember for the top row is:
‘Get all of these right to achieve Success. Get one wrong is Failure!’.

Bottom Row of the Equation – Infinity symbol

The bottom row is where the negative elements of the equation are hidden and they are numerous, which is why they are represented by the infinity symbol. They have conspired at school, through part-time jobs, University, and in corporate organisations to form our mind set towards training. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what infinity includes:
Lunch + trainer + venue+ hand outs + training experiences + late arrivals + school learning + work learning + previous training courses + number of breaks on the course + getting to training + amount of work + learning about mind set from home at the moment.

The infinity symbol at the bottom of the Learner Engagement Equation has the ability to easily overpower the 4 elements above. The advice here for the bottom row when engaging the Learner is: ‘Get most of these right to achieve Neutral. Get one wrong is Failure!’.


Engaging Learners effectively, from the start of their journey to the end, is critical if we want them to use what  they have learnt. Identify which element is weakest in your organisation, and use one of the other solutions in this guide to improve it.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets and Suppliers for over 20 years. He began his career as a buyer at one of the big 4 UK supermarkets and after rising through the ranks he decided to leave after 13 years and set-up Making Business Matter.For the last 14 years he has run MBM, which is a training provider to the UK grocery industry. Helping suppliers to the big four supermarkets to develop the soft skills that will secure them more profitable wins.

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