How to Get People to Pay Attention During Corporate Trainings

When most people hear, "We have a corporate training today," they don't jump for joy.

Unfortunately, this negative stigma around corporate trainings often leads to distraction. And if someone isn’t excited to be in a training program, it’s unlikely they’re going to pay attention very well.

But corporate trainings don’t have to be boring. By following a few simple steps, you can keep your trainees engaged. And if you can keep them engaged, there’s a much better chance they retain the information and your session is a success.

First, let’s dig into some reasons why people often struggle to pay attention during trainings.

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Why Do People Struggle to Pay Attention During Corporate Training Programs?

We’ve already addressed the fact that many people think a corporate training will be boring, making it hard for them to pay attention.

But beyond that, there are other reasons people struggle to stay focusing during trainings:

  • They don’t see the relevance. If the material doesn’t appear relevant to their day-to-day job, people will quickly get distracted.
  • They don’t believe the training will help them. If a trainee doesn’t think the session will have a direct impact on their performance, they won’t pay close attention.
  • They’re not motivated. Occasionally a trainee simply won’t be excited about their job. This is tough to work around, but you can help them regain their excitement.
  • They’re thinking about their day-to-day work. Many trainees will struggle to focus because they’re too busy. You’re taking time out of their workday, and they may be falling behind because of it.
  • They’re distracted. Studies show that unplanned events (distractions) cause our minds to stop working properly – which leads us to lose focus and forget what we were working on.

These are tough problems to address. But we believe these five tips will help you keep your trainees engaged so that you can hold highly effective trainings.

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5 Tips for Keeping People Engaged During Trainings

Establish the Why

The number one reason people struggle to pay attention during corporate training is that they don't want to be there. Similar to how you feel about a class you have to attend but don't want to be in, people often feel that way about corporate trainings.

You can help people want to be there by establishing the why and making the benefits clear.

The training must be relevant to their job.
The training shouldn't be an unrelated lecture, but rather closely related to their role. Even if the training isn't all that practical, you as the trainer must do the work of connecting the dots between the session and their job.

For example, you may say something like, "It may not seem like workplace safety is all that relevant to your job, but if we have safety problems, no one can do their job well, the company will suffer, and your opportunities to advance will shrink."

The training must be relevant to them. 
The training shouldn't be all about the company, but rather about helping them personally. Sure, the goal is probably to improve the company's performance, but if the individual doesn't understand its relevance to them, they will quickly get distracted.

Try to make the benefits clear with statements like, "If you master this material, there's a good chance you'll find yourself achieving your performance goal within a few months."

Create An Environment Conducive for Learning

If you want to keep people engaged during training, you must create an environment conducive to learning. In other words, everything must be set up in a way that promotes learning. Anything that detracts from this will be a distraction.

So how can you create a learning environment?

  • Make it comfortable. Have comfortable chairs, adequate lighting, and a temperature that's neither too cold nor too hot.
  • Make it easy to listen. First, the room should be quiet. Second, there should be no distractions. We’ll cover how to deal with common distractions below.
  • Make it easy to see. If there are any visuals, make sure to use a high-quality screen and that every seat in the room has a clear sightline to it.
  • Make it conversational. Make it easy for people to respond to prompts and questions. No one likes the awkward silence of waiting for someone to say something. Be friendly, warm, and welcoming.

You might be thinking, “I haven’t been to an in-person training in over a year.” These tips remain relevant. 

The biggest difference is that you have less control over some variables – like what kind of chair your trainee is sitting in and whether or not they have a dog barking in the background. To the best of your ability, control what you can control, and encourage your trainee to control what they can control.

Minimize Distractions

Before you even get started, make sure you have a plan in place to minimize distractions as much as possible.

Even the slightest distraction can lose someone’s attention, and we know it takes an average of about 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies distraction at UC Irvine.

Make sure you have a plan for:

  • Cell phones. Either have everyone turn them off before or make sure they’re silent.
  • Late trainees. Set up a few seats in the back and make sure they have everything they need so that a late arrival doesn’t throw off the whole session.
  • Bathroom breaks. We’ll cover more below, but make sure people know when breaks are scheduled. It will decrease the number of people getting up to go in the middle of a session.

In a virtual training, you won’t be able to control things that could distract your trainees. Again, control what you can, and strongly encourage them to control what they can. Advise them to silence their phones, close the door to their rooms, and consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

Use Engaging Corporate Training Materials

You can follow all the tips to creating an environment conducive for learning, but if you deliver the content in a boring way, people will be unlikely to pay attention.

How can you deliver the training in an engaging way? Use engaging materials.

Use visuals. Even if you don’t think your content is all that complex, your trainees might. Use visuals to help make points and explain concepts.

Make them engaging. But make sure your visuals are engaging. If you want to lose someone’s attention, pull up a basic, boring, corporate slide deck. Don’t settle for this. You can find well-designed and attractive graphics all over the internet for free.

Keep it real. Use real-world examples. You’ll quickly lose people if they can’t relate to your examples. If possible, do some research beforehand and use industry or role-specific examples or even pull from real scenarios that have taken place at the company.

Keep it interactive. Find ways to get people to interact with the material. Encourage participants to ask questions, create moments for engaging discussions, and inspire them to sustain their learning with post follow-up discussions. It is good to keep the room light and conversational in a virtual or in-person training.

Take Well-Timed Breaks

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so important.

Even if you have engaging materials, keep people engaged in the training, and give them a comfortable environment conducive to learning, you'll still need to take breaks.

Breaks can not only help the trainee better retain the information, but they help solve one of the biggest reasons people get distracted: they have to go to the bathroom.

Take them intermittently. Rather than in one big chunk at the beginning or end. For example, take a short break after each module or every 45 minutes of training. Don't take a big break at the beginning or end.  You could also make it fun by suggesting a quick stretch routine.

Reset after the break. Once your trainees return from the break, review what you’ve covered and set the objectives for the next section of training.

Create An Environment They Want to Be In

At the end of the day, if you can create an environment your trainees want to be in, they’ll pay attention. Do what you can to make the training relevant, engaging, and inviting. If you can do that, your programs will be effective and your trainees will be happy.

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