From pushback to pushing forward: how to motivate your employees toward training and courses

Blog / News | 08-06-23

Learning and development is high on the agenda for lots of organizations. But not every employee jumps for joy at the idea of taking a course or training. There can even be some pushback. When it comes to personal growth or gaining new skills and expertise, employees are often enthusiastic and eager to learn. But professional development goes beyond that. Knowledge of less exciting topics, from legislation and regulations to safety and hygiene, needs to be up to scratch too. There is often less enthusiasm for these subjects. And when employees aren’t engaged in a topic, this is where pushback can arise, which can hinder the learning process. You want to avoid that of course, so we’ll share four tips on how to turn pushback into pushing forward.

Ugh…do we have to?

Pushback comes when people are forced to do something they don’t see any value in. Maybe the topic isn’t that exciting, or an employee feels they already know enough about it to do their job. Basically, the training lacks relevance for the employee and feels like an obligation.

The result is that the employee starts the training or course already down two-nil. After all, their brain is saying ‘no’, which means the capacity to take in new information is greatly reduced. Although your employee would still take part in the training or course, the learning effect is likely to be minimal. A lose-lose situation. The training has been for nothing, plus the employee is taken out of action while they are busy taking the course. Not to mention the money wasted on the training itself and any other costs associated with it.

Motivating people to learn

To achieve the desired learning effect, you need to overcome this resistance to learning…or even better, prevent it in the first place. The following tips will help you.

  1. Make general topics more specific. Training on general themes such as safety, cybersecurity and inclusivity is often given to all employees according to a one-size-fits-all principle. But because the content is too generic, you soon lose their attention. After all, someone working in the office has a very different working environment than someone who drives a truck. So, make sure you tailor training to the target audience, so that people appreciate that the material is relevant to them. You can do this by focusing examples on the sub-target group’s experiences, as well as by speaking their language.
  2. Make sure it’s relevant. Information delivered through training is supported by giving examples or describing specific scenarios. You might be able to come up with a common example quite quickly, but it might not be very creative. Telling a story about a mistake or accident in your own workplace, on the other hand, is much better and gets the message across more effectively. Develop your training based on the relevance to your organization, or rather the relevance to the immediate working environment of each sub-target group. Use numbers to demonstrate urgency, rather than checking items off a list of information you need to communicate.
  3. Pick a suitable format. Astonishingly, employees are still expected to go through pages and pages of information on a particular topic, under the assumption that this will increase their knowledge or even change their behavior. But it simply doesn’t work that way. As well as making topics specific and relevant, it’s important to deliver the training in such a way that conveys the information and makes it stick. When it comes to safety, for example, you can show the consequences of unsafe actions through a demo. Or get your employees into groups and do exercises related to bullying on the shop floor. The point is: interaction makes it easier to get information across.
  4. Ensure proper communication. Companies sometimes forget to communicate in the run-up to training. It doesn’t have to be much, but it’s a prime opportunity to show employees how relevant the training is to them. Then they know what is expected of them, and it’s a way of ensuring attendance.

All in all, it’s simply a matter of paying enough attention to both the content of the training and the how and why. Don’t just stick it on people’s calendars and then expect them to show up eager to learn, but take care to communicate properly in advance. By offering relevant training and demonstrating why it is important to both the company and employees, people will be more geared up to learning and you are more likely to prevent any pushback.