Why is it so often the case that the message of training doesn’t get through? There’s no one answer to this question; but there are at least 10 possibilities.

1. They Really Can’t Hear You

Do you mumble? Are you dealing with an employee with hearing loss? When explaining procedures, speak slowly, loudly and clearly. Make sure trainees are literally able to hear you.

2. You’re Speaking Greek

Don’t assume your students understand more than they do. Define any words which may be unfamiliar. Give them all the information you can. If you’re not sure how much background knowledge they have, you can say something like, “This may be familiar to you, but let’s go over it again.”

3. They Hear the Message but Don’t Understand the Reason

Many trainees want to know not just what but why. This is especially true if you’re trying to get them to adopt a change in procedure or technique. Explain the purpose behind the change. Otherwise, trainees may not accept the change and do things the same way they always have.

4. They Don’t Appreciate the Stakes Involved

Before explaining a safety procedure, point out the hazard involved. It makes a lot more sense to wear protective gloves when you know about flesh-melting chemicals.

5. Your Jokes Are Garbling the Message

Humor can be an important tool in training. But don’t overdo it. If you kid around too much, it may be hard for trainees to tell when you are serious. Don’t hide behind jokes when delivering difficult messages. Your audience might not get the point.

6. You’re Not Listening to their Questions and Concerns

Give your trainees lots of chances to ask questions. You can gauge the level of understanding by what they ask. Never laugh at questions. Respect your trainees and help bolster their confidence. If there are no questions, don’t assume everything is understood. Trainees may have nothing to ask because they don’t understand what you were talking about.

7. You’re Not Tailoring Your Message to Who They Are

Differences in literacy levels and culture may make it difficult for you to communicate with your trainees. Be sensitive to these differences and look for ways to bridge them.

8. You’re Not Testing Their Comprehension

A big mistake trainers make is assuming that the message has been comprehended without verifying it. Ask the group to repeat the message back to you. “Okay, now what is the procedure for disposing of oily rags?”

9. You’re Relying Too Heavily on the Spoken Word

Different people have different learning styles. Some need to hear. Some need to see. Others need to experiment hands-on under your supervision. Still others won’t learn a thing until they get their hands on a training manual. Most need a combination of these methods, which is what makes online learning in co-operation with in-person instruction so attractive and effective.

10. You’re Not Anticipating Obstacles

There may be roadblocks to following your instructions. Force of habit and uncertainty about what is expected are common ones. Maybe the trainee doesn’t have the tools, equipment or procedures to follow through on what you said. Look at things through the trainee’s eyes and try to anticipate these difficulties.