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Reaching the Reluctant Trainee, Part 2

— by Trina Rimmer

ElearningWeb based training

In part 1 of “Reaching the Reluctant Trainee”, I explored two basic types of reluctant trainees – the Skeptic and the Technophobe -and gave you some tips and techniques I use to get to know my training audience better.  In most cases, a fear of change drives the reluctant behavior, but only when you’ve identified the specific barriers feeding the fear can you strategize an approach to overcome them.  So that's what this post is all about –  ideas you can use for creating training buy-in, even from the most reluctant trainees. 

Idea #1: Self-Assessment
Best for: Skeptics
Instead of pushing, try pulling!  Kick off your online training with a fun or intriguing self-assessment designed to get trainees to build buy-in for themselves.

Idea #2: Real-World Scenarios
Best for: Skeptics, Technophobes
The use of complex simulations or real-world scenarios is a powerful, immersive technique for triggering behavior change – even in the most resistant trainees. By honoring the trainee’s experience and confronting the complexities and real world challenges of their jobs, you build immediate buy-in. 

Idea #3: Champion a Collaborative Learning Environment
Best for: Skeptics, Technophobes
Nothing diminishes fear of change faster than acknowledgement and collaboration: 

  • Schedule reluctant trainees to take online training together. Ask a skeptic to act as a proctor in the training environment.
  • Encourage the idea of a training mentor in the workplace. Give training mentors special responsibility for gathering and reporting post training performance data, user-experience feedback, or invite them to participate in a recurring training focus group.

Idea #4: Give them a Shortcut
Best for: Skeptics, Technophobes
When you’re a seasoned worker or a top performer, there’s nothing more insulting than being asked to take online training as if you are a “beginner”.  Instead of making trainees learn in your order, give them the ability to “test out” of a lesson. Or, give them an option to take a shortcut to bypass information or even entire lessons that don’t pertain to them. By acknowledging their experience and expertise, you build buy-in for future training AND get your trainee to focus on the most essential content needed to realize your objectives.

Finally, one oft over-looked engagement technique for reaching reluctant trainees is to market or promote online training.  Whether you use email, the company intranet, a training newsletter, or even a voicemail blast, the point is to get the word out about the special features you’ve included in the latest online training module and how those features benefit the audience.  If you’ve built-in a training shortcut – advertise it!  If you’ve created an immersive customer service simulation – let them know! 

Or, how about engaging trainees by treating them as trainers?

If you’re already using these or other engagement techniques we want to hear from you! Please share your insights, ideas, and feedback with the community by clicking on the comments link.

Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training solutions. When her training skills aren't being tested by her children, you'll find her helping others to develop their own design muscles. Contact Trina at

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