by Evan Hackel
Boring training is bad training because people who are bored tune out and do not learn. That could explain why so many professional trainers like to exhibit such high levels of energy. They burst into a training session at the start of the day with so much oomph that it is hard to imagine how one ounce of boredom could remain in the room.
Yet boredom is sneaky. Even if training gets off to a rousing start, it can sneak back in and infect trainees.
Boredom Is Serious
Boredom, which has been defined as “an unpleasant state arising in monotonous situations,” does more than just limit people’s ability to pay attention. In studies, it has been linked to serious problems. When people are chronically bored, they are more likely to drive too fast, to become negative or depressed, and to engage in dangerous activities like smoking and drinking alcohol to excess.
In 2014 Colleen Merrifield, a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wrote her thesis about boredom. Entitled “Toward a Model of Boredom: Investigating the Psychophysiological, Cognitive, and Neural Correlates of Boredom,” it makes for very useful reading for training designers.
“Despite the breadth of research related to boredom,” Dr. Merrifield writes, “surprisingly little research has been devoted to understanding the psychological, behavioral, physiological, and/or neural underpinnings of the construct itself. Without this understanding, it is difficult to establish criteria to identify and measure the experience.”
Chasing Boredom from the Training Room
If even the most energetic trainer cannot banish boredom from training, what can? Let’s look at some strategies that work.
- Deliver information in visual, aural, reading/writing and kinesthetic formats. You can learn more online about those styles, usually grouped under the VARK acronym. In practical terms, that means designing training that includes videos, moving around the room, reading and written exercises, as well as compelling slides and visuals. Training that utilizes the four VARK aspects is less likely to become boring.
- Design training that doesn’t conflict with trainees’ energy highs and lows through the day. These highs and lows, also called circadian rhythms, cause most people to have high energy during the morning hours, followed by a slump after lunch and then another uptick in the mid to late afternoon. In designing your training day, you should avoid reading, taking tests, or listening to talks right after lunch – a time when energy levels fall. Engage your learners in work simulations, games, or interactive exercises instead. If you have a quiz or evaluation for trainees to complete, schedule that first thing in the morning, when energy is high. Timing your training around circadian rhythms decreases boredom and boosts receptiveness to learning.
- Invite trainees to decide what they will learn. During the planning process, for example, you can ask your salespeople to submit their top frustrations and roadblocks – then design training to explore them and provide solutions. Or if your trainer is agile and resourceful enough, trainees can suggest topics to explore while training is taking place. If you can keep training grounded in what people genuinely want to learn, boredom doesn’t have a chance to intrude.
- Let trainees complete some materials on their mobile phones and tablets. After all, not every unit must be completed in a face-to-face training session, or even in a company’s computerized training room. Some materials, including interactive quizzes and videos, can be delivered to your employees over evenings or weekends. Mixing these options in with classroom training can provide variety that keeps training engaging and vibrant.
About Evan Hackel
Evan Hackel, a 35-year franchising veteran, is a nationally recognized expert and speaker on franchising. Evan is founder and CEO of Ingage Consulting, and CEO of Tortal Training, a leading training development company. Evan is an active advisor in the C-Suite Network. He is also author of Ingaging Leadership Meets the Younger Generation, and host of “Training Unleashed,” a podcast covering training for business. Contact him here, follow him at @ehackel, or call 781-820-7609.