Why so much training gets tuned out
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Why so much training gets tuned out

If your employees are living in the 21st century along with the rest of us, here’s the kind of thing they do at home:

  • Channel-surf the TV, flicking through dozens of program choices inside of a minute.
  • Sit at their computer or curl up with their laptop, buzzing through short videos on YouTube or similar services.
  • Check their e-mail messages and decide in the blink of an eye whether to read them or, more likely, trash them.
  • Send and read Tweets or highly abbreviated texts.


See a common denominator? Of course you do. All these activities require that people focus only for a short time. And when they’re constantly engaged in such activities, they get in the habit of tuning out of stuff very, very quickly. Also, they get in the habit of paying attention only to what interests them, rather than what some omnipotent information provider shoves in front of them.

Swimming against the tide?
Which brings us to your employee training programs. Do you, against all the information-absorbing trends in the rest of your employees’ lives, require them to sit through hour-long lectures, or 45-minute training videos, presented in an order or sequence that you decide? If you do, you’re truly swimming upstream.

Thing is, as a recent article — Workplace E-Learning That Sticks — points out, the mind of modern Homo Sapiens craves information in short, disjointed bursts, not in long, linear presentations such as felt right to our 20th-century ancestors. (Yes, in terms of learning style, those folks just a few decades ago are ancestors!)

So unless you’ve got a lot of 90-year-old employees whose preferred learning style was formed in the 1940s, or you’re running a monastery on a mountaintop with no Internet service, you should probably review your training programs to see whether you’re demanding too much of your trainees.

Specifically, ask yourself whether the training you’re providing, whether in person or online:

  • Is delivered in short (under 10-minute) bursts
  • Covers only a single concept in each session
  • Allows trainees to access sessions according to their own priorities


If you answered Yes to these questions, congratulations. You’re training 21st century employees in the information style they’re used to, and they’re probably learning a lot. But if you answered No, you have work to do if you want your training programs to accomplish their purpose.

Click here for a 2-minute video on the power of “single-concept learning”

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