If you’re a trainer, you recognize them—employees who attend training sessions, but do not want to be there. They shuffle in, toss their training materials on the table, lay back in their chairs, cross their arms, and silently communicate with an expressionless glare, “I dare you to teach me something.”
What can we as trainers do to mitigate these types of behaviors and attitudes without further alienating an already disengaged participant?
- Clear Expectations – One of the first steps you can take is to clarify expectations with the training coordinator well in advance of the training event. When he or she communicates the training event, he or she can do so positively, using terms like “opportunity” and “development” versus terms like “mandatory” and “remedial”. The training coordinator can also spell out why the training is important and contribute to a culture of development versus a “we have to get through this stupid stuff because that’s the way it is” culture.
- Be Prepared – When you show up unprepared, you communicate to participants, “You are not very important to me.” In essence, lack of preparation contributes to further disengaging already disengaged participants. Being prepared allows you to confidently facilitate the topic while keeping learners engaged. Preparation is not just limited to topic. You should arrive early and make sure all support devices and materials are good to go.
- Build Rapport – Walk around the room and greet participants as they settle in. Name tents are a plus, but if none are provided, then carry a small notepad around with you. Diagram the room and write down first names as you meet people so you can call them by name throughout the training event. Obviously, this isn’t possible if your crowd size exceeds thirty or so, but even in a lecture format, you can still meet a sampling of people and reference them by name throughout the training event.
- Maintain Rapport – Do not stay at the front of the room the entire time. If you facilitate small group exercises, walk around. Ask questions. Clarify directions. Affirm participants’ work. If a group refuses to engage, sit down with that group and facilitate that particular exercise.
- Do Not Take it Personally – Finally, if a participant just refuses to budge, do not let his or her lack of engagement ruffle your feathers. During every training session, I invite participants to take an ethical approach to the training event. I say something like, “Remember, you are on the clock, so please apply the same energies in this training event that you apply to your job every day.” I can make the invitation, but I cannot force an employee to engage. If they choose not to, I do not allow myself to be derailed by their unethical choice to waste their employer’s time and money.
Let’s keep the conversation going! How do you encourage less than enthusiastic employees to engage?