Motivated and enthusiastic trainees stimulate both their own and their colleagues’ development. It’s true of online training and live training; people talk about it during work and discuss each other’s progress. However, acceptance and motivation is not a switch you can flip.

In educational design, many experts say that answering the “why” and WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”) for participants is the best way to motivate. A convincing argument that is linked to participants’ self-interest is supposed to encourage them to pay attention during the program and to apply the acquired skills in practice. In reality, however, motivation is a gradual succession of phases through which participants can move during the training program. Our task is to lead them to the final stage: active participation. The challenge is to prevent participants from falling back to a previous phase after a motivated start. Paying attention to user friendliness and realistic practice helps.

Phase 1: Active Rejection

An employee in the active rejection phase does not agree with the training program and is therefore not motivated. For example, let’s say you want to train your team to address each other more often and to give better feedback. Employees might say, “I don’t really have time for a training program, and I don’t need to improve my feedback. It really isn’t that hard.” In this case, online training can show the employee he or she doesn’t need to take a whole day to train. It should also help to present the program as a way to get everyone on the same skill level; more experienced employees can serve as examples for their less experienced colleagues. A skill scan before the training program can also help employees realize they aren’t as skilled as they thought they were. This leads participants to phase 2.

Phase 2: Passive Acceptance

In this phase, employees accept the goal of the training program, but they don’t start working on it yet. An employee in this phase might say, “Online training is great, but my manager doesn’t give me the time, and I’m not going to do it in my personal time.” Now, it’s a matter of overcoming practical objections and continuing to emphasize the importance of the end result. Make sure that managers give their teams the space and time to train between activities or at set times. Help everyone understand, for example, that better feedback leads to an improved work environment.

Phase 3: Active Acceptation

Ideally, your online training program only starts when all participants are in phase 3. Their attitude should sound like this: “An open work environment with mutual feedback is indeed better; how can we contribute to that goal?” Implementation in practice is necessary to lead them to phase 4. Make sure they can implement their new skills in the work environment and that online training situations match the situations that they encounter and find challenging. This helps them experience how their acquired skills can help them contribute to their goal.

Phase 4: Active Participation

An actively participating employee acknowledges the value of the training program and finds ways to use the new skill in practice. It may be impossible to convince each and every employee, but if your training program is well-constructed and there is space to apply the new behavior in the work environment, you’ll notice that the majority of employees will reach this phase. That’s the way to create a real behavior change in the workplace!