In The Workplace

I’m the training manager at a small corporation. We offer training programs to our employees and yet very few people attend. They claim they’re too busy at their jobs. Even their bosses don’t allow them to participate in training programs. Now that we’re in a pandemic, it has become doubly difficult for us to convince people. Do you have any suggestions? — Sunday Morning.

After two years of looking for a job after graduating from college, a young man felt lucky to have been called in for an interview with a major corporation. Agitated, he asked if he can attend the company’s training program. The extremely busy hiring manager, besieged with so many applications said: “It’s impossible for now. That can happen in maybe 10 years.”

The applicant replied: “Would that be in the morning or afternoon?”

Improving work performance through training involves the discovery and examination of many challenges, including their lack of ability to attract participants, despite the program’s short- and long-term benefits. Most of the time, workers, with the tacit approval of their bosses, are discouraged from attending these programs, which may sidetrack them from work.

It’s a no-win situation for any training manager. While we accept that improving employee skills will help increase productivity, you could also be blamed for not pushing harder for training programs. It’s important to make an effort to improve individual development by exploring various solutions.

Always take time to discover areas for improvement when offering training programs. Rather than ignore the issues and adopting a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, find ways to figure out why the workers and their bosses’ resort to excuses about being too busy to participate, even in programs that are often designed to make their jobs easy and productive.

One, work with department managers on their training needs. This is too basic to be ignored. And yet, some training managers offer programs that are not on the radar of intended users. They select programs based on what other companies are using which are not geared towards the specific concerns of each department.

Two, strengthen the performance evaluation system. Some managers are not concerned about their workers’ career goals, while others are too eager to recommend unnecessary programs. Therefore, explore how you can independently assess the training needs by validating them against their appraisal ratings.

Three, offer the training programs via several online platforms. This has become understandable during the pandemic as much-preferred face-to-face programs are deemed risky. Choose programs that are self-paced so workers can attend them during their free time. When you allow this, ensure they don’t take it lightly.

Four, choose training programs with engaging methodologies. The programs may include trainers with an engaging style who can hold the attention of participants throughout the event. Require facilitators to put together highly interactive programs.

Five, coordinate with the resource speakers to give online tests. This should help both the training manager and the subject matter expert to understand how effective are teaching these online courses. Consider it one of the requirements before participants are entitled to certificates.

Six, include free online programs offered by various organizations. Some of these include the Asian Productivity Organization, Asian Overseas Technical Scholarship and the International Labor Organization. In the Philippines, you may explore courses offered by the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Labor and Employment.

Last, establish, update, and maintain the skills matrix board. Every department should have this installed in their respective common areas. It must include the workers’ names, their job titles, their photographs, length of service, skills possessed, and other relevant information. The objective is to create a bandwagon effect and motivate everyone to join training programs.

Futurist Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Let this powerful quote be the centerpiece, if not a part of the training department’s vision, mission, and values.

This applies not only to you but to other departments as well. The strategies need not be elaborate but responsive to the individual needs of the workers and the general expectations of all department heads. This becomes tricky if some workers admit not having any career goals beyond receiving pay and perks, or if their managers don’t care.

If this happens, be conscious of other approaches like cross-training that could help change minds. Adjust and calibrate your programs to cater to specific needs, including those of workers in menial jobs. Chances are, you will be surprised to learn that they too can be motivated to look for meaningful and financially-rewarding work.


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