Dealing with WIIFM

Getting employees to embrace training can be as fun as herding cats.

Adult learners often ask, ‘Why do I have to do this?’ or more likely, ‘What’s in it for me?’


This last question, abbreviated to WIIFM, is something learning leaders deal with quite frequently. Employees are resistant to participating in an exercise which they feel is futile. Many view training as a complete waste of time, something crammed down from HR or compliance with little relevance to their day-to-day job.

This is certainly a pain point experienced by many learning leaders. The eLearning Industry blog frequently discusses the need to address this pain point head on when designing a course.

Indeed, several steps can be taken to ensure that training not only goes smoothly, but that the training is something employees actually look forward to.

It all starts long before the employee shows up to the conference room or clicks the Start button in an interactive lesson. L&D leaders need to build purpose and intent into the very design of the training so that they will never hear an employee complain again about WIIFM.

Let’s look at some ways you can position the training, to make it relevant to the employee in several key areas. Such explanations can be delivered directly during the training, or can be a part of the initial and follow-up communications.

Job. Explain to the employee how this very training affects his or her every day tasks and responsibilities. Discuss how the training was developed in concert with a manager or department head, and it will help the employee succeed and thrive. Try not to be punitive, such as, ‘If you don’t do this training, you will be sure to fail.’ Be as encouraging as possible, even if you are not the subject matter expert.

Company. Connect the training to the company’s overall goals. This is a perfect opportunity to remind an employee how his or her role has a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line — something which a lot of employees often forget. Mapping training to outstanding individual performance to superior organizational results galvanizes employees to embrace training and succeed.

Profession. This may seem out of context, but it never hurts to remind employees that you’re thinking of them beyond the four walls of the company. Discuss how the training supports not only a current role but also career advancement. According to the 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report by consulting firm Deloitte, employees are increasingly seeking jobs that provide both personal and professional fulfillment, and they look to the training department to help them do just that.

Ensuring that the employee is made aware that an upcoming, required training addresses these areas will not just make for a smoother training but will make you a highly sought-after individual in the organization.

And that, of course, is what’s in it for you.

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Dealing with WIIFM