Learning professionals everywhere face the same challenge: You put the blood, sweat, and tears into creating training opportunities to better your company’s workforce, but then very few people ever end up actually completing the training. It’s enough to give you training rage. Where does this resistance come from and what can you do to overcome it?

Resistance to training

The first thing to understand is where the resistance is coming from – the true source could be one of two places, and in the worst cases you could have resistance stemming from both sources.

Sometimes the primary source of resistance is actually your company itself. There’s a bunch of reasons why companies resist the learning you know could get great business results. The most common tend to be the following:

  • Lack of Time. Managers may complain that coordinating training is a huge distraction from the more important work of managing day-to-day operations. Employees may also feel the same way. Time is arguably one of the most precious commodities of all. There will always be people throughout the organization who claim that everyone is too busy and there is simply no time to learn anything new.
  • Fear of Desertion. Organizations are often afraid that if they invest the time and resources into training employees, the newly-trained workers may very well jump ship to take higher-paying positions at other companies.
  • Employee Resistance. Mention an upcoming training for employees in a meeting and let’s face it, you’re more apt to see people roll their eyes rather than any excitement. Employers are not blind to the fact that many employees resist training efforts. Why invest in something people don’t even want?
  • A Tough Post-Recession Environment. The Great Recession may be over, but many companies are still reeling from the hits they took to their bottom lines. As many firms continue to struggle, they find it difficult to justify an investment of limited resources into employee training. This is one trend that is beginning to turn around. A 2014 report from Bersin by Deloitte notes that training budgets increased by 15% in 2013 – the biggest jump from the previous seven years (source). However, the Association for Talent Development found a smaller change in overall learning and development expenditures, which according to its study averaged $1,208 per employee in 2013, only a 1% increase from 2012’s $1,195 figure (source).
  • Prior Bad Experiences. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that if a company has experienced poorly designed or badly executed training efforts in the past, those are the ones that will be remembered. “Remember the last time we did training? It was a disaster. Who wants to go through that again?” This might be the toughest barrier of all if it’s present – bad memories are very “sticky.”

The other source of resistance is among the employees you’re trying to train. You’ve no doubt seen what happens in meetings where training is mentioned. You’re likely to see yawns and people rolling their eyes. Here are some of the more common reasons why your employees resist training:

  • Why am I Being Punished? In the same way that people only tend to raise the issue of accountability when something has gone wrong and blame needs to be assigned, many employees have the mindset that training is a kind of punishment for not living up to what’s expected of them. If that feeling aligns with how training is designed and delivered in a firm, you can see why people might resist it.
  • Loss of Autonomy. No one likes to be forced to do anything, and all too often trainings are presented as mandatory, which just makes people feel like they have no control at all in the situation.
  • Feeling Undervalued. It’s no secret that workers are largely unengaged in the workplace, to the tune of 68.5% according to Gallup (source). If people are disengaged from their work, why would they bother to embrace training?
  • Lack of Job Security. Gone are the days when a person signed on with a company and then worked there for decades. Today’s workers are much more likely to switch jobs more frequently than in the past, leading some to question whether or not putting time into training makes any sense if they might not be with the company very long.

The good news in all of this is that there are specific strategies and tactics you can employ to overcome both sources of resistance and put the training rage tiger back in its cage. See our new white paper for the details: Training Rage: Overcoming Resistance for More Effective Learning.