How to engage employees in training

Probably the hardest thing to accomplish in any training session, no matter the material being presented is keeping the audience engaged and interested. Especially true if they believe they don’t need the training or you have a dull boring presenter. Most employees  feel that they don’t really need it so they soon forget as much as 95% after one week.

If they are disinterested or it doesn’t involve them personally with their pay, vacation or benefits… That is the way of the business world. Just as unfortunate is the way that it can cost you and your business financial resources, if they don’t absorb, and retain, the material.

I think I can safely say that most anyone can train a room full of intelligent humans. Even a chimp could train employees, management included, if they are not disinterested. The trick is to engage your people so that they learn the material you are attempting to impart to them.

The bad thing of it, is that the chimp could probably do a better job than the innumerable consultants and trainers that are out there… and getting paid for it. Sometimes these people are being paid hundreds or thousands of dollars only because the material is so valuable and possibly the name recognition of the presenter. The key is having an instructor who can keep the audience engaged and interested, even through the dull plodding technical parts.

Being honest it doesn’t matter what method, or combination of methods you use. From instructors, videos, power-points, manuals, CD’s, overhead projectors, or costumed characters. If your instructor is as interesting as a cow patty or a moss covered sloth moving through the tree at .005 MPH, it simply doesn’t work, they won’t remember much of anything except how boring the instructor was.

I have been to seminars and classes where the instructor could read a bag of fertilizer and keep you engaged and interested. Therefore it’s not necessarily the material but the instructor and how it is being presented. Because every group of people are different when it comes to retaining the material.

The best instructors will find ways to keep the audience involved and engaged. If that means changing tracks in the middle of their presentation to regain that interest… If I saw, or felt, the audience’s attention flagging, I would do something melodramatic to get their attention back on point. Like suddenly smacking the wall or slamming a door.

Having your audience simply watch videos for 8 hours or so is boring and they won’t get much from it, like watching a boring movie in the theater. This is the preferred method for most security companies and my opinion is that training is one of the main reasons why despite any state mandated requirements, security officers are not highly thought of.


Training Methods:

The training method you utilize also has a lot to do with how well it is received and retained by the participants. I utilize 3 methods all melded together in my classes. It doesn’t work with everyone or every setting, but in most of my classes it does.

The first method I use is an oldie but goodie. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. This should be a commandment of everyone. Keep your training simple! It doesn’t matter if you’re training hourly employees, security officers, supervisors, managers, or even C-suite executives. Keep it simple.

No, you’re not insulting their intelligence, although some who already know some of it will think so, you are training your participants on something they don’t know. Therefore, despite their possibly advanced degrees, you need to keep it at a basic level and build upon that as you go along. To do otherwise you risk losing their attention with items that are too far over their heads. Again, they may think they know it all but… why did they hire you?

The second method is called ‘The Socratic Method’. It is a simple yet very effective tool in training. In essence the participants train themselves. I know what I said above about keeping it simple. But as you read on you will see why this is so simple and effective.

Instead of giving them the answers I ask them questions and have them tell me the answers! If they don’t know it they sit and think for as long as necessary to get the correct answer. But in the process, they are throwing out answers that are both right and wrong, hopefully, just not the book learnin’ way. It’s a matter of dragging the answer out of them and making them think. They can over think the answer and never get on the right track or just be as basic as possible and get it on the first try.

Lastly, I use shock & awe. I usually start my workplace violence classes with having them close their eyes and relax, thinking about a beautiful spring day and they’re busily working on a project. Then as they are imagining the day and their keyboard, I slam a book on the table. That gets their attention making them sit up, take notice, and wonder…what’s  next to either change the direction of the class or… While it is a bit over the top, theatrical, and melodramatic it does get their attention. And to answer your question, yes I have used this with C-suite executives.

Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @robertsollars2.

                          I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear

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