For many facilitators, the ideal participant is someone who is interested in the topic, willing to share information and comments, completes individual and group exercises promptly, and joins group activities voluntarily. However, participants are often required to attend mandatory trainings, do not feel comfortable discussing personal or work-related issues with others, do not see the value of individual or group exercises, and are unwilling to “play” training games.
Likely, your participants’ level of involvement will fall somewhere between these two extremes. At best, you already know your audience because you have worked with them before. At worst, you will discover where they are in the continuum when you encounter them for the first time.
Let’s meet Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick.
When attending training, Ian is only interested in getting information that he cannot find by doing his own research. For him, facilitators’ insights based on experience are valuable. He usually sits passively at the back of the room, hoping not to be called on for anything. He rarely speaks up or asks a question. He just wants to get back to work as soon as possible.
Jessie brings her tablet to every training to take notes or pictures of PowerPoint slides that contain data and graphics. She is interested in receiving the latest information available to help her perform her job better. She completely dislikes icebreakers, and freezes whenever a facilitator says something like “turn to the person on your right and talk,” whether this happens at a conference or in-house training. She thinks those exercises are a waste of time.
Rakesha is only comfortable sitting in an audience. She refuses to engage in role-play exercises, especially when the entire group is watching, or to practice presentations to get feedback from her peers. She often tells facilitators about her preferences when she arrives so that they do not call on her or put her in an uncomfortable situation. Even though she refuses to speak in public, she has earned a reputation of being effective with individual coaching and on-the-job training.
Nick sits as far away from the facilitator as possible. He barely acknowledges the presence of others or the facilitator. He focuses his attention on his mobile device or his tablet throughout training unless something grabs his interest momentarily when he looks at the screen or makes eye contact with the facilitator. He always finds a way to avoid answering questions or participating in activities. Nick’s priority is fulfilling his training requirements, and he really wishes he could do so online and at his convenience.
What do Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick have in common? What affect can their actions have on your training? What would you do so that all of these participants have valuable learning experiences in your training sessions?
Where to start
The training landscape has changed. We have found that time allotted to trainings is shorter. For example, clients who used to request six or seven hours of training in one day now ask us to deliver content in four or fewer hours. In other words, we are doing training in chunks. Other clients ask us to go straight to the point without any activities and to prepare for groups of 30 participants, even if we emphasize the benefits of smaller groups.
These requests are the result of multiple factors, such as limited budgets for training, issues with time, and changes in business needs. Today’s participants have shorter attention spans and access to all kinds of information at their fingertips. They are often expected to achieve more with less, and any time spent on what they perceive as useless activities takes them away from important work or life activities. Training is perceived as something they must do when things are wrong instead of a learning experience that can benefit them now.
Today’s facilitators still must address different learning styles and use proven learning principles when designing and delivering content; however, we need to evaluate our model against the new reality of the workplace where participants, such as the ones described above, have different needs and perceptions of training.
In the past, Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick may have been identified as “difficult” participants who needed to be managed. But it’s our job to create an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of their willingness to participate in more traditional ways, obtains value from what we offer.
We offer the following recommendations.
What do you think? How do you help learners participate, even when they don’t want to? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.
Published Tuesday, January 21st 2020 ATD LINKS