Maybe it’s just my bad luck, but I keep running into students who see no reason for training classes. They can’t see how learning to run a computer will help them in any way, or how it relates to their “real job,” which may be gathering information, crunching numbers, or dealing with customers. There’s also the “teach me the bare minimum and no more” attitude, which is equally perplexing. I mean, shortcuts are fun and make life easier, right?

This one really stumps me
I must admit, I find it hard to understand when people don’t have the slightest interest in developing their technical skills. I always try to relate to where students are coming from, but this one is tough for me to get past. It’s not like computers are going to go away. They’re not a passing phase, like eight-track tapes or something. I understand the intimidation factor and the frustration factor, but those are not excuses for refusing to develop skills that you will use inside and outside of work for the rest of your life!

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can move on to more helpful information. Try the following ideas to motivate reluctant learners:

Do something fun.
Obviously most people have a lot of work to get done every day and that is the focus of the whole class. But getting people to see computers as a source of amusement or enjoyment can make them want to learn more. At the end of each session, show the students something unrelated, such as how to distort a photo in Photoshop or how to add a goofy blinking border in Word.

Do something relevant to their every day work and get specific.
This will require some investigation work ahead of time. Talk to a department manager or someone who knows how your students will be using their new skills. Find a task that the students will have to do every day and go over this task step by step. The students will be impressed when part of their workday shows up in class (having expected to hear nothing relevant all day), and this will also help to encourage learning.

Find an old way/new way example.
Maybe the purpose of this class is to introduce workers to a new software package or upgrades to an existing package. Maybe a production process has just been changed or introduced. This trick also requires some preparation. Cover this issue when you talk to the managers about the students’ daily work. If you can find a way to show increased efficiency or even to show why a change is being made, this will win some students over to your side.

Remind them that everyone was a beginner at one time.
A lot of times resistance to learning is just a cover for insecurity. The person doesn’t know if he or she can do it, so the person has decided not to do it.
Check out these articles for help with: students who can’t keep up , students who try your patience , or students who ask too many questions .
Find a link to the student’s other interests.
Does she have some odd hobby? Do an Internet search for the subject. Does he produce newsletters at home? Show him how to make a template. Does she run a side business? Show her how to customize Excel worksheets. Obviously you don’t want to encourage an employee to use work resources for outside business, but these examples can show a person that software training is valuable ingeneral, not just for work.

There’s one in every crowd
Maybe we can’t bring everyone into the digital revolution, but we can always convince a few more people to join. And besides, willing students make the trainer’s job that much easier.
How do you handle the malcontents? What’s your favorite trick for convincing people of the value of training? Send us a note with your thoughts and maybe you’ll see it in a future TechRepublic article.