The Real Reason Why Your Employees Resist Training
Antonio Guillem/

Why Your Employees Resist Training

When my partners and I first considered starting an Instructional Design business over 20 years ago, we grappled with a very simple, yet serious question; Do people really want to learn? We knew that most people needed to learn knowledge and skills to be truly successful in their careers, but we also observed that most people resist formal training.

Over the years, I’ve thought about that resistance issue many times. Periodically, I’ll read different articles to see what others are thinking about it. I recently read the reflections of 4 different authors. Ann Latham at Forbes [1] suggests several reasons employees resist training including "employees don't know why or what to do differently after the training" and their "inboxes and to-do lists are overflowing". Among the reasons Cortney Peters at XanEdu [2] identifies as reasons for employee resistance is the inability employees have to see the relevance with their job, a feeling that they are being trained as punishment, and that training intrudes on their free time. Denise Ryan of The Training and Development World [3] writes, "Too many managers blow off the session because they don't need it". He says, "This sends a strong message to all their followers: this training is not worth my time". And finally, the website Mediaplatform [4] suggests that employees resist training because "the lectures are long and one-sided" and because "training interferes with work".

I have watched as people engaged in job training recognize that they are actually mastering content valuable to their job success. They seem to enjoy the training and often resist stopping. Indeed, Drake [5] stated that "success is the greatest motivation to learn". I contend that the primary reason employees resist training is that most of the training they experience doesn't actually help them improve their job performance, and therefore it doesn’t motivate them to participate in training. Unfortunately, when Instructional Designers endeavor to motivate learners to engage in training, they often resort to adding superficial motivators such as games, videos, avatars, and new technologies. They fail to follow instructional processes designed to ensure that the training actually teaches employees the knowledge and skills required to succeed at their jobs. I have found that superficial additions, such as those mentioned above, can actually demotivate employees who anticipate learning ways to improve important skills related to their job but they actually discover that the training is actually another bait and switch experience in which they are entertained but not taught.

Merrill et al [6] suggested that "If an instructional experience or environment does not include the instructional strategies required for the acquisition of the desired knowledge or skill, then effective, efficient, and appealing learning of the desired outcome will not occur". The inclusion of games, videos, avatars, and new technologies are not necessarily the reason why your employees resist training. They simply don’t necessarily increase the effectiveness of training. Employees resist training because Instructional Designers fail to attend to evidence-based Instructional Design principles and instructional strategies. Furthermore, Instructional Designers often allow graphic designers, computer programmers, and Subject Matter Experts to commandeer the entire Instructional Design process. These practices result in the design and development of training that doesn’t help employees succeed. The training is therefore demotivating.

Connie Malamed, the eLearning Coach, describes the Instructional Design as "the process of identifying the performance, skills, knowledge, information, and attitude gaps of a targeted audience and creating, selecting, or suggesting learning experiences that close this gap, based on instructional theory and best practices from the field". I believe that until Instructional Designers attend to important and necessary Instructional Design principles and strategies, employees will continue to resist attempts to train them, regardless of the superficial motivators that are used.


  1. 8 Reasons You Are Wasting Your Time And Money On Training
  2. 9 Reasons Your Employees Are Resisting Your Training
  3. Why People Hate Training
  4. Why Your Employees Hate Training and How to Fix It
  5. Drake, L (2000), Personal Conversation.
  6. Merrill, M. D., Drake, L., Lacy, M. J., Pratt, J., & ID2 Research Group. Reclaiming Instructional Design. Educational Technology, 1996, 36(5), 5-7
  7. What Instructional Designers Do