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4 Ways to entice the Unwilling Learner: Solutions for effective learning

‘Human beings are born to learn and learning is what they are better at than any other species’. This premise works throughout our lives – especially in the context of corporate trainings. In the cut-throat competitive work environment, learning has become a necessity in order to survive and succeed. So then, is the unwilling learner a myth? Why do some learners still resist learning?


We explore some of the reasons and practical solutions to the same.

One size does not fit all: A common folly of many training courses is that they do not align to the needs of the entire learner group. It is important to recognize different learning needs, objectives and barriers (if any) within the target audience. Thus instead of creating a unified approach to cater to the group, a bifurcated learning approach might be the best way to go.

  • For instance, we created an induction program for the sales team of a leading FMCG company for two distinct groups within the team – new managers and the merchandising staff.
  • The first part of the training consisted of the organizational structure and an overview of the values and vision of the organization. The managers were provided with appropriate details to lead their teams while the field staff was required to only go through a brief summary of this section.
  • The second part of the training dealt with a detailed look into best practices for increased sales. For the managers, it was a detailed account of how their product sells in the market. Statistics and figures were provided for them to understand the market.
  • For the merchandising staff, it was a practical approach to understanding the sales objectives and the ways of attaining them best. Printable resources within the course were made available for them– keeping in mind that this group spent their maximum working hours out in the field. Actual scenarios from the field were made part of the course and assessments were built around them to test the practical knowledge acquired by the learners.

Learning and something more: Learning is important, but what seals the deal is if the learning exercise provides the learner with an extra ‘something’. The learning then becomes ‘useful’ and thus even the most unwilling learner does not find it cumbersome or unnecessary.

We created an innovative training module for a large insurance company, who wanted to train their sales team on their portfolio of products for a niche market. The training was text-heavy and had to include the details of several products.

  • While designing the module, we adopted a variety of strategies to provide adequate relief to the learners – including extensive use of graphics, audio and multimedia.
  • In addition we also created a separate version of the module – directed towards direct selling to the customer.
  • This version was only 5 minute long, a short capsule with a separate audio track and animated figures explaining various offers and products in layman terms.
  • While the longer version of the training module provided the learners the adequate product knowledge, the shorter version was a tool that they could use extensively for actual selling. This was the added incentive that they got out of the learning initiative, which successfully equipped them to do their jobs better.

Utilizing multiple ways: With advancement in technology, there are now numerous ways that you can reach out to your learners. Utilizing more than one platform of learning is a sure-shot way of increasing the effectiveness of training. What is important here is that the strength of different platforms should be recognized and utilized accordingly. This will ensure that the learner finds different opportunities to learn and choose the one that suits him or her best.

  • For a training organization, we developed a digital solution that aimed at catering to the needs of their learners from different professional backgrounds.
  • To re-enforce classroom learning and lure in the unwilling learners, we created a web-based platform that provided a way to deliver traditional, virtual, synchronous and asynchronous trainings along with an array of learning tools like assessments, social media communities, checklists and a library of short learning videos.
  • In addition to a web-based platform of content delivery, we also developed separate apps for iPad and iPhone users. This made sure that learners could access content as per their needs – on the device of their choice – be it their personal computer, tablet or smartphone.
  • With the inclusion of learning tools like videos and social media, we made sure that the strengths of the mobile platform were well-utilized.

Extracting learning out of work: This is the most powerful aspect of workplace learning and also perhaps the least utilized one. With the aid of technology, a culture of sharing and collaborating to learn together can be cultivated. This mode of peer-learning at work suits learners of all kinds – self-directed learners as well as the ones who need to be pushed into learning from time to time.

  • Videos are a powerful learning tool and can be successfully utilized for knowledge sharing. The learners can record their own videos, using simple video equipment available on most devices – a desktop computer with a webcam, a laptop with a built-in webcam or even a basic mobile phone with a built in camera.
  • A repository of videos can be built and made searchable with videos specific to areas, regions or individual – as per the needs of the learner.
  • Comments and questions pertaining to the videos can also be discussed through social platforms or discussion boards. This can be a powerful collaborative tool for learning as well.
  • For proactive learners, this will be encouragement to do more and share more. For the more reluctant ones, the example set by others would be the necessary ‘push’ to learn – in order to perform better.

Going the extra mile does not always mean that you need to bring radical changes into your training – tweaking existing technology or learning strategies can give you the results that you want! And when it successfully entices the unwilling learner into learning, it’s worth a shot. For more on creating ways to reach out to your learners, write to in**@gc**********.net

3 thoughts on “4 Ways to entice the Unwilling Learner: Solutions for effective learning”

  1. In my experience there is only one reason that an unwilling learner exists - they are simply not convinced that they'll benefit from it.
    Drilling down on this, it really depends if we're talking compliance training or training designed to improve performance.
    The latter requires a carrot whilst the former generally involves a stick!

  2. When the job is "permanent" everyone is an unwilling learner. Moreover when an employee knows no matter how much extra he learns, there is no scope of (either moving out of department or reaching next step), this unwillingness props up.
    Imagine 30 persons just doing cut-paste in an MNC, were reluctant to learn Excel anymore. But interested to master Macros, just so they could put them in action to do the work, and they could enjoy elsewhere.
    Indian corporate scenario is beyond description.
    I agree with AlanB's views but wanted to add more, hence this comment. NICE ARTICLE. Thanks

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