Your employees hate learning and here’s why…

It’s information overload

You ask staff to read through a massive PDF or sit through hours of PowerPoints and talks and, naturally, they are going to tune out. When we are pushed to process a lot of data our prefrontal cortex shuts down like a blown fuse. According to Sandra Chapman founder of the centre for brain health “The more information we download or take in, the more shallow our thinking is and the more fragmented our brain systems are.” Surely you don’t want a load of blown fuses in your business?


  • If you have a large PDF then break it down into steps and sections.
  • If you are teaching employees how to do something, break the process down into a how-to guide that is relevant to them.
  • A prime example is GDPR training; a lot of managers are having trouble getting staff to engage with this new legislation.
    • Break the subject down into how it will affect each part of their job, why it is personal to them and what they need to do to be compliant.
    • Send this information out to staff in parts; perhaps two a week so they can take in the information gradually rather than all at once.
    • Recap the key points at the end of the process to consolidate learning.


It’s forced 

Humans naturally like to learn, we are curious creatures and are inclined to find out more. However, when learning is forced upon us and perceived to be irrelevant or meaningless it makes it much harder to retain knowledge. Minds are not like pools that you pour information into, they are more complex. Learning is an active process meaning that the employee has to be engaged in order to gain a full understanding.


  • Let them learn in their own time and make clear the benefits of the learning to them. When you make it easy for employees to learn, they can fit it around their own schedule and are more likely to digest the information.
  • Virgin Media (VM) have an e-learning game called Albert which staff can play on their own phones.They found through employee surveys that 65% of staff play in their own time and 97.5% of employees like or love playing the game.
  • Since the implementation of the app VM saw an increase of 7.4% in their knowledge rating from customers in just three months! Along with a 2.2% average increase in sales every single month!


It’s all about you and not them 

You tell them what to learn and how it affects company performance, the learning benefits you and not them. This makes employees feel that if they don’t learn then it is the company who suffers. Secretly they probably don’t care that much if it doesn’t make a difference to them personally and so engagement levels plummet. For example, you send your retail team information on how to up sell and simply tell them to read through the material. Most likely they will start to skim read it before deciding they know the rest and stop.


  • Create career frameworks for employees, show them how they can progress and what skills they need to get ahead. You would integrate a guide on up-selling into this process.
  • This demonstrates that the information is vital for them to learn if they want to develop and progress through the business.
  • It makes it more about helping them succeed and do well rather than just about the success of the company.


It is a ‘one size fits all approach’ 

As most of us know by now, there is not one learning style that suits every person. For example, you keep doing workshops because you have been told they are less boring and the interaction keeps employees engaged. This may work for some people but others may prefer to read and make notes themselves to understand information, repeated workshops will not cater for these employees and may even discourage them from learning.


  • Wherever possible try to have a variety of options for staff to learn the content that you are offering, keep them short so it doesn’t become too time-consuming to produce the different formats.
  • These could include: videos, online tutorials, articles, workshops or quizzes.


It is not part of your routine

You have random training for employees, they don’t know when to expect it and sometimes they don’t have any for months. Routine is essential to changing behaviour; like brushing your teeth once something is part of your routine then it occurs naturally and doesn’t require effort and this can be applied to learning.


  • It’s easy… make learning a habit within your organisation, but make sure they are rewarded for it because if there is nothing in it for them then it won’t become a habit.
  • You could implement an e-learning game where staff have to complete three daily questions with their results being reflected on a leaderboard and prize incentives. You could have a points system which works towards reaching the next level in their role. E.g. to become a supervisor you have hit the target of four article reads per week plus two new skills per month.

Written by Hayley Lloyd

Published 14th March 2018