How to get staff to emotionally invest in staff development training

I have seen so many organizations bring in amazing guest speakers and highly research-based programs to their staff development trainings.

I have seen so many program managers (including myself) research best practices and spend money on expensive professional development days.

Yet even with all of that, many teachers and youth program staff:

a) either don’t show up to trainings;
b) show up, but are on their phones or laptops (or sleep); or
c) pay attention, but then don’t implement or apply anything they heard

What they lack is buy-in.

They feel like they’ve already-heard-it-before.

They feel like it’s not about them personally.

They tune out.


Whether you organize your own topics on this, or hire an outsider, here are three things to consider when looking at staff development workshops:

#1) First, you need to show them how staff development training help them in their own life – especially in their own personal relationships.

Youth program staff are often in their early twenties.

This is a time of life where they are still very focused on peer relationships and how to navigate them.

They may be interested in student development, but they are likely more (or equally) interested in improving their own personal (especially romantic) relationships.

What you need to do: ‘market’ your staff trainings in ways that show them how it will help them not only bring out the best in their students, but will also help them in their own lives – especially their personal relationships.  Find content that can help them make sense of their own challenges, frustrations, stresses.


#2) Second, make sure staff trainings are not just about staff sitting back and listening.  

Staff need to come to their own insights.

Otherwise it’s just words.  That’s when they tune out.

Hit them in their soft spots.  Tug at their heartstrings.  Hit some nerves – some personal nerves about where they may be lacking in their control over stuff happening in their personal life.

Talk about their experience as children.  Their experiences in the presence of adults who didn’t bring out the best in them.

Then inspire them to be that person they wished they could have had in their life when they were little.

Three ways to do this: Make sure there are a) moments of self-reflection exercises, b) partner or group discussion and sharing and c) Q & A sections where they can ask and talk about personal examples.


#3) Third, have staff practice ‘performing’ and experiencing these insights during the training.

Small role plays or visualizations can help.  If the staff trainer does not incorporate this, make sure you offer this either immediately after the training or a few days later.


When staff are trained in ways that help them reflect on their own personal development, they will stay motivated to invest and engage in the training – once that connection is made, they are more receptive to hear about how to extend this personal learning and reflection into the classroom.



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