Although training is now part of the culture of most contemporary workplaces, there are still some employees who resist training or resist training under specific circumstances. While it can be frustrating when employees refuse to participate in mandatory training, by analyzing their reasons for resisting training, organizations can gain insight into their workplace culture and assess what is and is not working with regards to their approach to training.

Learning Management Systems and Training ResistanceA Case Study on Non-Compliance

In early 2015, shortly after a series of high-profile legal battles regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault cases on other college and university campuses , a small liberal arts college decided, as a preemptive measure, to require all its 1655 employees (staff, faculty and administrators) to complete a mandatory online course on sexual harassment. Wisely, the college believed that asking its employees to complete the online course, which is approximately 30 minutes in length and designed to be completed on employees’ own time, would ensure that all the college’s employees were aware of the college’s policies on sexual harassment and the implications of engaging in inappropriate behavior. In turn, they hoped this would reduce the risk of ending up on the liable end of a costly and reputation damaging legal battle.

On the surface, the college’s approach–sending an email out to all 1655 employees asking them to complete a mandatory training session on their own time–appeared to make complete sense. The approach was flexible and required only a half hour of each employee’s time. Over a six month period, however, only 33% of employees completed the required training course and many of the employees who did complete the course were female staff working in a human resources capacity. Male staff, including most of the college’s security and maintenance workers, faculty members of both genders, and even some of the higher-level administrators who had voted to implement the training program all reported high levels of non-compliance. Fortunately, because the college choose to adopt a learning management system with built-in notifications and assessments, they were able to accurately assess who had completed the training session.

So what went wrong? When the college investigated why their mandatory sexual harassment training had effectively failed, they discovered that employees’ reasons for non-compliance were diverse. Download the free white paper “How to train people who don’t want to be trained. While many maintenance workers explained that they simply never check their work email because it is not part of their job and as a result, did not realize the training was happening and required, faculty were more likely to express ideological reasons for non-compliance (e.g., many female faculty members wondered why they should take time out to complete training on sexual harassment when they are often the target rather than source of the behavior in question). Part-time faculty, who often only spend a few hours per week on campus and make less than $5000 per semester, indicated that they assumed the course was only intended for full-time employees or noted that they were unwilling to take on additional work without compensation. Senior administrators simply assumed they were exempt due to their location in the organization. What is there to learn from the low compliance rate in this case? First, a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely ideal in a complex organization that employs a wide range of workers in different types of positions. Second, different delivery formats may be best suited to different demographics (e.g., while an online course proved appropriate for lower-level administrative staff, a short on site session may have proved more appropriate for security and maintenance workers who are rarely online at work).

Using Learning Management Software to Promote Training

Consider each demographic in your work environment and determine which type approach is most appropriate (online course, webinar etc.).

Explain why the course is required and why each workers’ participation is essential.

Provide incentives, especially for part-time workers and other workers who work on an hourly basis.

Collect feedback on the course and ask for suggestions on how future required training courses should be promoted and/or delivered.