Workplace Communicator Blog

Three Causes of Trainee Boredom and How to Prevent It

Posted by Marie-Claire Ross on Thu, Sep 15, 2011

describe the imageTrainers often worry about how to create engaging company training for staff.

Let's face it, some company training can be quite painful and you can literally start yawning when you hear the topic name.  But, there is some good news.

New starters are often very keen to fit in and learn about their new employer.  So if you are training at the start of the new job, employees are at their most teachable.  Also, according to John Medina, the author of the fantastic book, Brain Rules, our brains can be excited about learning something new.  The trick is to capitalise on this interest which will last only an hour or two.

The bad news is that the brain shuts off when things get boring in training.  And when this happens, it's pretty difficult to get the learner to pay attention fully.  In fact, he found that we don't pay attention to boring things (this is an actual brain rule, not a general observation).

So it's crucial that trainers structure training sessions so as to avoid boredom.

But before we talk about how to improve training structure - what do you believe are the main causes of boring training?  A monotone voiced trainer, boring content, classroom environment or being forced to learn?

Read on to learn the four main causes of boredom in training (they're not what you think):

1. Getting people to read training materials or a PowerPoint presentation.  The brain sees each letter in a word as an individual picture.  Reading is inefficient as we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them.  Your brain interprets every letter as a picture.  This takes take time to read.  It also means that lots of words shown on say, a PowerPoint slide, chokes your brain (read the article "Why Using Visual in your Communication is so Important" for more).  Trainers that rely on showing lots of text are contributing to boredom.  The way to get around this is to actually use lots of visuals in your training.  Use photos, videos and diagrams to explain the information.

2. Delivering the content without stopping.  This is combined with the previous tip.  But constantly reading information or telling people about a new training concept without stopping actually increases confusion.  After 10 minutes, audience attention steadily drops.   Every 10 minutes the trainer needs to do something emotionally relevant to regain attention.  Dr Medina, says to tell a relevant story, show a relevant video, or do a relevant activity.  While after 90 minutes, you need to re-energise, otherwise excitement will vanish (exercise is also really important to give oxygen to the brain).

Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into the memory store rather than when it's jammed in all at once (So if you thought a monotone voiced trainer was the main cause of boredom, it was probably their non-stop delivery style that was boring you).

3.Teaching abstract ideas rather than concrete.  In the book, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, they found that the best trainers used real life examples with their training.  So rather than just teach a new concept to students, they made it more relevant to students by using actual examples.  For example, rather than teaching children to add by writing 2 + 2 =4 on the blackboard, the best teachers would show two apples and then put another apples beside them to show how it made four apples.

So to engage your trainees, you need to:

1. Space out training with adequate breaks.

2. Undertake training at a moderate pace, so people have time to absorb the information.

3. Use real-life, concrete examples that people can relate to.

4. Use videos, pictures, diagrams and colours in your training materials to engage.

The good news is that if you structure training correctly, you will get people involved and learning.

Topics: keeping training interesting, making induction training interesting, avoiding trainee boredom, engaging staff with training, induction training