How to get your employees to buy into mandatory training

Contrary to what your mother might have told you, most workers do not consider learning as its own reward.

Many trainers have faced a group of sullen students, people who feel overburdened to have one more task added to what they consider an already punishing workload, at one point or another. Even while you start your warm up, they are thinking about the work that is piling up on their desks or workstations that will still have to be completed between when the course is over and the work day ends.

How do you change that attitude? How can you get your employees to buy into the mandatory training they must have if the company is to achieve its objectives?

A study called “They’re not just big kids: motivating adult learners” presented at the Proceedings of the annual Mid-South Institutional Technology Conference a few years ago and a more recent study involving researchers from Massey University in New Zealand and Athabasca University in Canada both shed light on this challenge.

In the first study, author Karen Jarrett Thoms suggests that more than anything, adults need to feel what they are learning is meaningful. The instructor must take special care in illustrating how the material is relevant and when there are assignments, explaining how the assignments are relevant to the adult learners’ career.

Some other tips include:

  • Put the material in bite-sized chunks
  • Let the learners work in groups
  • Add options and flexibility in assignments
  • Create a climate of exploration
  • Keep requirements in perspective to the amount of time needed for the course
  • Bend the rules if necessary

Most importantly, make sure that the adult student is equipped with sufficient skills to complete all assignments. If the student has to research five items on Google, for example, the instructor must be sure that each student is able to use a computer and knows how to conduct a simple search. If it involves home assignments, the instructor has to make sure the student has access to a computer at home.

The second study, entitled “Examining Motivation in Online Distance Learning Environments: Complex, Multifaceted, and Situation Dependent,” the researchers concluded that whether mandatory training is face-to-face or online, motivation to complete it depends a great deal on the students’ perception of its relevance.

Sufficient corporate support, as in lessening a workload during the time the course must be completed, is also of primary importance.

Adult learners are deeply motivated by satisfactory answers to the “what’s in it for me?” question. They also want clear expectations of what they will be required to do with the knowledge.

If as part of the training process they get a chance to select a course or an assignment that holds great personal interest for them, they will also be highly motivated to persist and complete the course.

Don’t forget to offer some system of rewarding the students who complete the training successfully. It does not have to be monetary; issuing certificates or presenting gifts or even an afternoon off are all highly desirable rewards.

Organizations spend thousands, even millions of dollars trying to find the best solution for training employees to improve profits, productivity etc and forget the importance of their employees actually finding this training method an effective tool for learning. While planning on implementing training, also plan how your employees can be motivated to make the most out of the training being put in place.

Share with us your experiences and tell us more ways in which an organization can motivate their employees to train effectively. 

Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami
Roz Bahrami is a blogger for SkyPrep, an online training software for companies to train employees and measure results. Roz is a regular contributor to blogs related to corporate training, L&D, and HR technology. Visit my personal blog at

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