What to do when learners don't take the training?

Feb 07, 2019

Hey e-learning peeps, 

Recently a customer was talking to me about a compliance course they launched at their company. They needed 100% of the employees to take it within 30 days, and they were having a hard time getting everyone to take the training. We know some of the reasons this happens... people are busy, they forget about the training, they don't want to take it because it seems boring. How can we surmount these obstacles? What are some tips and tricks you use to help or incentive learners to finish their training? What is your process? Do  you involve managers to communicate directly with those who haven't completed? What are your experiences in this area?

Thanks in advance! 

9 Replies

A couple of things that have worked for me in the past:
1) send a calendar invite even if (especially if) the training is web based. People who accept the invite are losing the "I didn't have time" excuse because you've carved out time for them.
2) completion leader boards or email reports by manager/director/ELT.  Managers can be very competitive and no executive wants to be the leader of the org that finishes last or not at all.

Judy Nollet

Owen's idea for the calendar invite is great. It might be tough to implement for a large company, though, since everyone might not be available at the same time. But if there's a way to let each person schedule it whenever they want (within the designated timeframe), that'd be great.

I also agree with getting managers involved -- from the start. They should know beforehand that required training is coming up and what the expectations are. For example, what are the consequences for the manager and for their direct reports who don't complete the training? If the lack of completion doesn't impact them in any way, that implies the training really isn't important.

Leader boards can be a more positive way to encourage completion.

Also, if the company has its own internal social media, you could use that to post reminders.

michelle eames

We used to use a product called meta compliance.  You could set the course to launch every morning automatically.  You could set a number of snoozes (when the learner closed it) and you could set a completion by dates, If the learner hit too many snoozes or it was past the date the course would cover the screen and they couldn't close or move it out the way until they did it, not even IT could 'get around it'.  It was really good, although not very popular.  After the intial pain of people screaming at IT they had urgent work to do there and then people quickly caught on it was just easier not to let it slide.  quite an expensive product and its has evolved massivly in the past 3/4 years.

michelle eames

Matther Bibby, The problem was, the you could do intranet notices, emails and teams meeting actions to explain why it was so mportant but they would too be ignored. SO the message wouldn''t get throug until it was too late.  The window that popped up for meta complaince would have the explanation of the whys aswell as the llink to the course.

It was evil but loads of fun!!

Ulises Musseb

Compliance, regulatory and every mandatory recurring training that comes as a result of regulations pose a number of challenges at different levels. In my organization, a large medical institution, we have compliance, emergency management, regulatory education for nursing (to name a few), so making sure that people take their courses comprises a great deal of our learning management efforts.

First, there's the challenge of developing the courses in an engaging manner. Since many of those regulatory courses are monitored and audited by entities (that may or may not have a clue on basic instructional design), many of the departments or organizations require that certain parts of the course are presented exactly the way those entities want to see them in an audit. That means a lot of wordy bullet points in slides, which results in boring, repetitive courses. Unfortunately, the auditors have priority over the learners when it comes to content development.

Second, there are challenges related to the assignments of the courses. We have to make sure that we define populations to receive the assignments appropriately, so clinical staff receive the versions of the mandatory courses for them, and non-clinical staff receive the assignments to their right courses (for example). For that, we have to rely in the integrity of the data in the LMS, which sometimes changes as staff and the institution evolve.

Third challenge is related to the use of technology. We have to accommodate for the entire range of levels of technology access and literacy, meaning that the interfaces have to be easy enough for lower-level technology literacy users without coming across as condescending to those more savvy. The language that the interfaces have to use for learners to read and interact with their learning experience should accommodate most-to-all of our users.

Fourth challenge is making sure that new hires also comply as soon as they are employed. Some new hires don't have access to the LMS in the beginning, so we have to find ways of making the courses available, and that the completion data is in the LMS once they are hired.

Last but not least, there are the notifications. We have to regulate the reminders and announcements that we have to make, due to the rather large volume of events in the institution. In fact, we have an entire department that manages such reminders.

So, as you can see, attaining 100% of compliance in the institution requires more than telling employees that the courses should be completed:

  • Did they receive the assignment? Did they receive the right assignment? Was the assignment provided within a reasonable time frame?
  • Were they notified? How frequently?
  • Do all the staff have the right access to/knowledge of the technology that manages the learning?
  • Do you recognize that the courses might be repetitive, boring, yet required? (Learning design 101: honest and empathetic)
  • Will new hires receive the course assignment? At what point when they receive an offer?

We don't want to discourage users from completing the courses by not providing the right learning experience.


Bruce Graham

@Nancy - agree completely. Simple and somehow motivationally elegant.

"If you want to work here, understand that you need to do this"

Saying that, HR (?) Departments could do a MUCH better job of explaining the company implications of NOT understanding "Working at Height", or "Do not bring your child to word day as we're a welding company..." or whatever.

Learners often see no WIFM. No need for carrot and stick, just carrot, (but make it a great big one made from steel that you can beat them with). Maybe not.

Nancy Woinoski

Bruce you have such an elegant way of putting things. Training departments spend a lot of time navel gazing trying to figure out how to make employees complete compliance courses - the fact is that they have no power to do this unless their leadership creates a culture in which the training is required; puts some teeth behind the requirement, and puts in place mechanisms to let employees know what they are required to do, why they are required to do it, and what will happen to them if they don’t do it.


Kayleigh Lovatt


As we are a company that is FCA regulated, we have mandatory modules that are unfortunately boring (we are looking to spice them up!) however it is important they everyone reads the content and takes the assessment at the end, we have a minimum passmark of 80% with 3 attempts before it locks out, once locked manager has to sit with said person to give guidance and confirm they are ready to retake the test.

We also have a breach process in place, so each of our monthly LMS releases have 3 weeks completion time with regular reminders and outstanding reports sent out at various points throughout the 3 weeks. Once deadline passes anyone who hasn't completed (we do have exceptional circumstances) then they go on to the breach process;

  • 1st breach within a 12 month rolling cycle, they receive an email and are monitored
  • 2nd breach within that 12 month rolling cycle will be a letter of concern and monitored 
  • 3rd breach can lead to disciplinary which could lead to dismissal.

Hope this helps!

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