How to transform training cynics into model employees

Samantha Caine

Blog post by Samantha Caine

Samantha Caine, is the Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams and has over 20 years experience working as a strategic training and recruitment expert for a variety of international businesses. She works with organisations to develop interactive, training solutions and oversees the implementation of global sales and leadership programmes that are aligned with leading edge thinking from across the world

20th September 2017

Workplace negativity can spread like wildfire. It only takes one cynic to turn a once proactive team into a dispirited group of individuals. Once that ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone, it can be difficult to restore and this can have a negative impact on the wider business and the bottom line. 

When it comes to training, the majority of employees appreciate the investment that the organisation is making and recognise that as well as contributing to their own development it will as also have a positive impact on the wider business. Unfortunately however, in any business,  there are likely to be individuals who refuse to acknowledge the value of the development that is being provided for them and subsequently disengage from any training programme they are required to attend.

In order to get the most out of their investment, businesses need to achieve total participation from the group so that they can be sure people are enthusiastic and motivated to implement their learnings back in the workplace. Fortunately for Training Managers, there are effective strategies that can be put in place, not only to ensure that the cynics are not poisoning the well, but also to engage the cynics and ensure that they participate in the training with a true understanding of the value of the program.

The following strategies devised by Business Linked Teams are proven to transform training cynics into optimistic and attentive members of the training group.

Know your adversary

To provide an effective training program, it takes more than simply showing up. Prior research should be undertaken to identify the personalities that make up the learning group, and this includes identifying the cynics.

Differentiating the cynics from the supporters of the training within the group will enable the trainer to establish a rhetoric with individuals from both categories in the build up to the initial training session. Building a relationship with the members of the training group before the training is the first step in breaking down the wall that a cynic will place between themselves, the trainer and the supporters within the group.

Hit the hot buttons

Once identified, the trainer can further disarm the cynic by identifying their ‘hot buttons’ – the actions that activate engagement within cynical individuals. Whether plying them with positive feedback or allowing them time to air their frustrations or allowing them to coach another member of the learning group, it is important to identify the hot buttons to defuse the negativity and increase engagement.

Extract the expertise

Although a danger to the group if not handled correctly, the cynic does provide a level of value to the trainer and an effective training program will utilise the cynics’ perception of the organisation or situation, extracting their expertise on the problems that team faces, and that the training programme can address.

Not only does this approach enable the trainer to identify issues that the programme can fix, it also gives purpose to the cynic. Allowing the cynics to identify themselves as the experts within the group, the wind is taken out of their sails and their focus is shifted as their newfound self-importance heightens their sense of value and their perception of the training programs’ value.

Giving praise where it’s due by demonstrating the value of the individual’s contribution to the group will further bolster the cynic’s sunnier outlook on the value of the training.

Unite the group

When it comes to group work, pairing the cynics with the supporters is a proven way to boost the confidence of the cynic by exposing them to the optimistic viewpoints of their co-workers. This promotes a shared appreciation for the training, enabling the cynic to understand the impact of the training on their peers from a closer perspective.

In summary…

In the long term, it is important to follow up with the cynical members of the group following the training program, gathering and acting upon feedback and comments in order to keep the training fresh in their minds. This also enables them to recognise the support that is in place should they need it.

When applied with a measured and prepared approach, these steps will ensure that an effective training program yields successful results that not only benefits each individual, but the wider team as well as the organisation as a whole.