How To Bring Zombie-Like Learners Back To Life

31st Oct 2013

It’s the time of year when witches, ghosts, vampires and zombies are out to terrify the world. However one thing that is most terrifying of all, is the resemblance between a groaning, brain decaying, walking dead zombie, and an uninterested and disengaged employee. Here are some ways to bring your zombie-like learners back to life.


Zombies Moan and groan a lot. The same can be said for disengaged learners! They are likely to turn up to work feeling negative and pessimistic about their jobs and might be unsure about their progress into the future. This will come across in their mood.


How to fix it: Setting KPI metrics and personal development plans (PDP) ensure your learners are clear about what they’re working towards when they turn up to work each day. Job chats give the learner the opportunity to discuss their interests and personal aims, so managers can create their training path to include compulsory, role specific and relevant training, as well as extra training to help the learner achieve personal career goals. With clearer development paths, you will see a more positive and optimistic work force that doesn’t moan and groan.


Zombies are hungry for brains. Disengaged learners are hungry for feedback, goals and responsibilities.


How to fix it: Reviews and appraisals are the best ways to provide direct, one-to-one feedback and direction for learners. During these chats, the line manager can find out how they feel about what they are achieving, including what they like, dislike, find easy, or find difficult. It is then in the managers’ hands to provide praise for good work, support for difficulties, and challenges for the future. It is also a good insight for the managers, who can assess where skills and expertise are being optimised or wasted within a team, and make some changes to get the best out of everybody.


Zombies are in a physically decaying state. Similarly, disengaged learners are in a motivational decaying state.


How to fix it: Implement blended learning to keep the learning process varied. A combination of social learning, classroom training, e-learning, third party resources, webinars and workshops will hold learners’ interests for longer. Every person has their own preference so you can never please everybody all the time, but at least this way you can please everybody sometimes!


Zombies are contagious: When your employees aren’t happy, they will tell their peers about it, and it can often have a strong influence on the way they are feeling too. If employees are left for too long before they are able to speak up or confide in someone who can make a difference (probably their line manager!) they are more likely to discuss the problems with their peers instead.


How to fix it: Regular reviews, appraisals and job chats ensure that your learners don’t spend too long bottling up their feelings about a particular aspect of their role. During the job chats they are offered the opportunity to speak up about anything they’d like to discuss, which can be positive or negative.


Zombies are vulnerable to destruction of the brain and have low levels of alertness. Disengaged learners are vulnerable to a complete loss of concentration, interest and motivation. With motivation and alertness at a dangerously low level, any uninteresting activity will just destroy it entirely.


How to fix it: A combination of actions will solve a destruction of the brain! As mentioned above, KPIs and PDPs give learners a clear indication of their progression paths and the personal gains from achieving their targets, which boosts motivation. Also as above, a blended learning solution keeps the learning process varied and therefore much more interesting. Dashboards and reports are great ways of boosting motivation as they show data regarding the learners’ progress in real-time. Not only do graphs and timelines bring accomplishments and requirements to life, but they also enables the learner to take responsibility for their own achievements as they can see where they’re at in comparison to where they should or could be.


Zombies are unemotional and uncommunicative. Disengaged learners can also be uncommunicative and feel like their opinions don’t matter.


How to fix it: With a Social Learning platform, learners have the opportunity to provide feedback on their learning and training experiences. It offers a platform to discuss, research and conduct learning outside of the formal learning environment. With personal profiles and live chat to connect with peers, a wiki to create or read articles, and discussion forums and surveys to review learning activities, your employees have the chance to have a say in what or how they learn, make a difference and feel involved.


Zombies are the walking dead and a risk to everybody around them. Disengaged learners are dead productivity-wise and a risk to the success of your organisation.


How to fix it: Skills analysis and job chats enable managers to see where there are skills gaps within their teams. The next step after discovering gaps is to make appropriate changes so that employees are either trained to meet the skill requirements if they’d like to become an expert in a new area, or given different tasks more relevant to their expertise if they feel their skills are not being optimised as well as they should. New challenges and responsibilities can be discussed in each job chat (which should occur regularly!) to keep learners interested and much more productive.

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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