Find The Root of Disengagement:
When it comes to learner and employee training motivation, how they feel about their ability to be successful in the given topic often reflects how they perform - particularly those who are less motivated - I call this ‘educational efficacy’.
If you were being forced to play a game that you felt you couldn’t possibly win, how would you feel about having to play the game? Even if you were highly cooperative and did what was asked, you would feel drained, despondent and that your time was being wasted.
Often, educational programs and educators themselves can be the cause of educational disengagement. They use activities, tests and language that actually highlight the learners’ and employees’ weaknesses rather than celebrating and building upon their strengths. This further crushes any ounce of self-efficacy an employee or learner may have had in that topic as the very act of failing the test, or not knowing the answer when they were put on the spot, or getting the demo wrong reinforces their existing sense of “I can't do this.”
There are methods that you should consider if you are working with those who are disengaged in the learning process. Training and developing people is supposed to facilitate change and provide a positive experience, a successful outcome and better lives for the participants. Yet change is a phenomenon that often generates fear, resistance and heel dragging. Let’s face it. The very essence of education is change. We are attempting to change thoughts, knowledge, skills, perceptions, as well as attitudes, behaviours, and much more. This can generate resistance, often from our learners’ and employees’ fear of the unknown. If we are to design and deliver effective training programs, we need to make sure that we are aware of all of the ways that training can affect our learners’ and employees’ motivations and put into place various strategies for keeping them invested in the learning process. You should factor in how you will embed such strategies throughout the training design process.
To ensure a successful learning and development program, it is vital that change-makers, leaders and educators of all kinds know how to apply the top three techniques for engaging reluctant participants.
Provide Certainty and Motivation
Humans have always tried to exert control over their lives to gain favorable circumstances and avoid unfavorable ones. This has been the blueprint for our survival.
As soon as change causes us to feel like we’re losing control over our current and future experiences, we naturally resist. We run away from the change, drag our heels, sabotage it, or go into outright rebellion against it, for our own protection.
Having a sense of control over our circumstances by being able to predict them and plan how we will manage them provides two vital benefits:
1. It gives us confidence that we are facing a non-threatening experience that we don’t need to resist, and
2. It ensures a greater likelihood of a desirable outcome to that situation (because we can plan for it).
Change, especially when initiated by someone else, brings uncertainty and distress. This stems from the feeling that we have lost control, and our ability to predict, plan and prepare for change is diminished.
When it comes to our learning and development initiatives, we need to ensure that we are countering these feelings of lost control by giving the learners a clear plan of action, as much detail about the training, learning outcomes and how it will be experienced as possible; and having an open route of communication with their program administrators, trainers and fellow students as possible before the program even begins.
Remove the fear
When an unsuspecting employee is suddenly informed they have been enrolled in a training and development initiative, they may assume that it’s because they’re not good enough at their job, which naturally generates defensiveness and resistance. When people don’t know what is going on or why, fear of the unknown becomes a major barrier to learning. Here are a few ways to circumnavigate that:
Ensure that you appraise the motivation of the participant before the training/development program. This provides a platform from which to initiate a consultation based on the recognition of skill, contribution and further potential, instead of an identification of weaknesses.
In the pre-program appraisal, highlight their strengths and achievements. Use explicit examples to tell them what they have done well and what the business has gained from their contribution, if they are employed. This verbal affirmation is a source of efficacy for the individual, which is the single greatest motivator for an individual to take positive action and achieve desired results in their lives. If you cannot identify any achievements or contributions the learner and employee has made to something (an existing or old job role, a group, another learning experience), I would strongly suggest revisiting, or developing a thorough personal or professional development plan.
Use positive language (e.g. you wish to build on their strengths), not negative (they need to be up-skilled to fill gaps).
Explain to them how you intend to use training and development as a way to move their skills and contributions to the next level.
Now that you’ve increased their efficacy and willingness to undertake training, engage them further by demonstrating the need for it. Explain the vital skills that are required to meet the next 1-5 year strategic business objectives. Tell them that you see them being a part of that. In short, clearly explain their purpose, relevance and identified role in the long- term result of the change.
Allow them to Plan
As the trainer or educator, it’s important for you to recognize that participants who feel they can plan, prepare for and shape a meaningful outcome are more likely to participate. It gives a sense of control over the situation. Perceiving that we have no control or influence over a situation generates worry, distress and dispiritedness.
Consult with the employees and learners about the training and development initiative as much as possible.
Here are some ways to promotes that:
You can further assist in your learner and employee’s planning and preparedness by using a thorough and systematic enrollment system. The system should provide chronological detail of what will happen, what will be expected of them, what they can expect in return, the benefits to them, and so on.
Somewhere in this process, be sure to give participants an opportunity to ask or express what they want to get from the training and development initiative. Ask your learners to write down their hopes for the program. This helps you to contextualize your teaching and adds further value for the participants.
Revisit these hopes and outcomes at the end of the training to ensure that all the learner acknowledges that they were all fulfilled. When this happens, nobody walks away feeling like they’ve had a negative or pointless experience.
Remind them of the relevance
Training and development that is highly relevant to a participant ensures higher engagement, motivation, contribution, retention and completion rates. Knowle’s theory of andragogy says that all new learning must offer immediate relevance to our lives for us to deem it worthy of our time, commitment and brain capacity. If your learners and employees consider the training irrelevant to them or their lives, they will be unmotivated, disengaged or even rebellious towards it.
To solve this, contextualization is the key. Here are some ways that you can contextualize the learning experience:
In your description of the training, outline why and how it will be useful to each participant’s life, job role and future.
During the training, consistently emphasise how every skill, nugget of theory, and example is applicable to every person, job role, the business and industry they belong to.
Access the 1-5 year strategic company objectives, learner resumes and a copy of their two most recent performance appraisals, so that you can align the training design and delivery to that group's needs
These strategies will allow you to re-engage with your learners and employees and improve success and completion of courses and training. By contextualising, granting them the ability to engage by planning and by removing the fear of change, trainers and workplace educators will provide a much more positive learning experience for the learners, and a more talented workforce for their company.