Sentenced to TrainingThe other morning I was sitting in the office and got a text message from a friend. Basically it said, “I’m in class right now…dieing of boredom.” (This was at about 8:45am) Another text later said, “It’s a tax class. Even worse there is someone from the IRS speaking.”

This was mandatory training and he had to be there all day. He had zero motivation and zero desire to attend. I’d call him a “Training Prisoner”.

We’ve all seen training prisoners or maybe even been one ourselves. They sit in class, arms folded, with a constant look of disgust. They are checked out and possibly even negative. So…how do we as training professionals help? There will always be some training that is mandatory and some participants may have a negative attitude to all courses.

Here are a few things that might help:

Start with a Bang! – What activity could be done “right off the bat” to add excitement? What could be done to help participants understand the importance? Is there some type of competition or challenge? (introductions don’t always have to be the first item on a class agenda.)

Engage Participants – Nobody wants to sit and listen all day. (Even a training prisoner would like to move around a bit.) What types of group activities, field trips, games, role-plays, videos, etc. could we do? What about asking for personal stories that relate to certain topics. Most people like to talk about themselves :)

Upfront Communication – How was the course announced? Was it announced in a way that made it seem mandatory or was it a perk/personal development? This initial communication can make or break a course. The course should be portrayed as an opportunity to grow and learn. A chance to get away and be with fellow colleagues (network).

Time Commitment – Make the course as short as possible. People as busy and if they are not at their desk things are not getting done.

In the end if a participant isn’t motivated, he/she won’t learn anything. The training course for that person was a waste of time. What else could be done to help?

From ASTD LinkedIn discussion
Steve Klubertanz:
“Pay very close attention during student introductions at the beginning of class. It’s there you can learn a lot about what they truly want from the session, even if they were forced to attend.”
“I have observed people’s negative outlooks disappear just by acknowledging their feelings and reassuring them that I understand their position.”


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