We live in a small south American, third-world country where quality education is scarce and really costly. Also, the minimum wage is around $385 a month.

The situation

I’m a new employee (around 3 months) and I was hired to implement and develop a continuous improvement plan throughout the company. For the past three months I’ve been working in a “priority” project mostly by myself that had a big impact to the resource planning department. The project has been successful in every aspect and that success has given me the credibility and status to start taking more managerial decisions. Now that I was able to start thinking on the continuous improvement part of my job, I realized that most administrative and managerial personnel don’t know what “continuous improvement” means. To address that problem, I proposed some people to take a certification in continuous improvement. This was accepted by the CEO as he has the same view as I.
As I used to work in the most reputable university at my country, I still have several contacts in different departments of the institution. They offer us the certification at a great discount with some extra benefits. The same certification is offered to the public at a cost of $3500 without any additional benefit. We have selected 20 people to attend the certification, it would take 3 weeks (15 days) for 3 hours after work. Nonetheless, the company will offer a daily hour during the work schedule for transportation time. We will even offer transportation to and from the university so people don’t have to spend any of their resources for the classes. We won´t be charging any cost for the certification either.
Most of the 20 people are really enthusiastic about this certification. They appreciate the opportunity as this would be really costly for them without any sponsorship and know that any study done in this institution is a big plus in their CV’s. However, there are some that don’t want to attend and are trying to boycott the whole project. This is confusing me as I don’t understand their reasons to act like that.

My question is, how could I motivate this staff to attend the certification? I have even deployed a communication strategy to show the great benefits this program could bring the company and themselves.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 4:15
  • To clear things up a bit, can you say how long it takes to travel from the place of employment to the university and back again using the mode of transport employees usually use to get to work? Also, how much would the additional travel cost an employee on minimum wage?
    – traktor
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 4:36
  • 1
    You say you don't understand their reasons to act like that. Have you asked them? Can you share the reasons so that maybe people here can try explaining them instead of second guessing what those could be?
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 11:20
  • If your company doesn't think it's worth company time, you (as a colleague) will have a hard time convincing staff (who are humans, citizens, parents, partners etc in their off-work hours) that it's worth their life time, even if it were. Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 13:20
  • Posting as a comment as this doesn't answer the question you asked; is there a possibility of bringing the trainers to your location during work hours?
    – spuck
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 14:24

7 Answers 7


Don't try.

You don't need everybody to be on board with your plan. In fact it might be better not to have the people who are not enthusiastic attend the course. To make this work (including the more difficult problem of actually making changes after the course is done) you just need a core of people who are enthusiastic about the idea. If it's a majority of people that's better, but it doesn't need to be everybody. Tell the people who don't want to do it that they don't have to.

You don't get acceptance of ideas like this by forcing everybody to learn about it. Let the enthusiastic people learn how to do continuous improvement. They will come back enthused and wanting to implement the stuff they have learned. They may well convince the doubters that the idea is a good one, or at least to go along with whatever changes come. And if they don't, the doubters will be fighting not just you, but you and the majority of their colleagues. That gives you much more chance of success in actually getting to implement changes.

If you force the doubters to go to the course they will spend their time there undermining it. They will ask irrelevant questions, delay classes, criticize what they are supposed to be learning, and undermine the enthusiasm of the people who want to be there. The company will have spent more money to make things worse. And people don't like to be forced to do things. Even if everybody ends up convinced that continuous improvement is a good idea, some people will oppose it just because they were forced to go on the course. You don't need to be creating extra resistance.

  • 32
    + - you've got 20 people keen to be involved, that's excellent - work with them to make this first one a success!
    – deep64blue
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 19:15

This is confusing me as I don’t understand their reasons to act like that.

You can't understand why some folks might balk at the idea of spending 45 hours of unpaid after work time?

You are new. It's your job to drive improvement. It's easy to see why you are excited. But you have to be able to see things from their point of view as well.

Presumably, they got by just fine before you arrived. Presumably, they were doing fine with no certification. Now, you are asking them to devote 45 hours of their after work time, and aren't paying them for that time. Not to mention any study time.

For some folks, this isn't what they signed up for. It's not part of their job. You are the "continuous improvement" guy; they aren't.

how could I motivate this staff to attend the certification?

  • You could pay them for the hours they are spending after work.
  • You could give them a pay raise or bonus upon completing the certification.
  • You could arrange it so that folks can attend during work hours

Maybe after people in the initial group attend the classes, come back with glowing testimonies, and show how it is helping their careers, others will want to attend the next round. Maybe not.

IMHO, you'll never get everyone on board with doing extra.

  • 61
    How many people would stay an extra 3 hours on top of their regular work day even if they were paid for it?
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 1:20
  • 76
    @DKNguyen: This. It's not just money, there may be time constraints at play at as well: someone has to take care of the kids. A one-off evening can probably be arranged, but 3 weeks of evenings is a much tougher sell. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 9:02
  • 25
    "IMHO, you'll never get everyone on board with doing extra." <-- That's the winning statement, right there!
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 13:43
  • 26
    Just a note on your first point, most people value their hours outside of 9-5 much more, so if they're earning $30 an hour from 9-5 they may want $50 for 5-6 and $60 for 6-7 and $100 for 7-8. Especially if this means they have to pay for a baby sitter or pay for food delivery instead of having the time to cook yourself or something similar.
    – Aequitas
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 3:58
  • 2
    May I add that you are telling them that they are going to receive a training that is going to change the work they are used to?
    – Hermes
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 8:48

So - let's get this straight. You're asking these people, in a nutshell, to give up 45 hours of their life and receive no compensation for it at all. And you're wondering why they're pushing back?

I do understand that the company is receiving the training at a huge discount, but you're in a scramble to impose upon the work-life balance of the employees as a result. A compromise might be to offer the training during the workday, so those people can be paid for their time. If you train in small groups and stagger the training, it may not cause a large amount of financial or operation disruption. What's problematic is that your vendor for the training might have challenges with such a schedule.

Everyone isn't going to dance well with high-minded ideas of investing even their time into a purely academic exercise, much less their money. Try to see things from the other side.

  • 29
    My previous employer had a similar plan. The only difference that it would be during work hours and the company would pay for the course but not the hours spent. So more convenient than the OP's case. No one used it. All the employees knew why no one was using it. I later heard that the managers who came up with the plan had no idea why no one was using it. Their reasoning was the exact same as the OP's: "We're paying for the course so why isn't anyone taking advantage of it?" Sometimes, you're too enthralled with your own plan that you don't see the problem others have with it.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 1:17
  • 4
    @DKNguyen It might be a cultural thing, but I don't understand how this was "during work hours" but still the company would not pay for "the hours spent". Aren't work hours paid ours? And if so, I'm with your managers. I understand not everyone taking them up on the offer, but nobody? That's difficult to understand.
    – tim
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 7:30
  • 3
    @tim Simple explanation. Let's say a course will take 40 hours. That's one work week (5*8 hours). Lets say for the ease of calculation that my monthly salary is 1000$. That's 250$ I won't see that month. If I can get that certification for cheaper than that (120$ course for example), I am operating at a loss. If I get certified, I won't get a raise, I won't get anything for myself but become a better asset to the company. The only thing I might get from this certification is if I start looking for a different job and it looks better on my CV. That's how some people think.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 8:30
  • 22
    @jo1storm Oh, so "work hours" would mean "unpaid work hours", ie you'd take a pay cut? Yeah, I can see how that wouldn't be attractive. I wouldn't consider it work hours though (for me, it's not work if I don't get paid; "unpaid work hours" would be a bit of an oxymoron).
    – tim
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 9:21
  • 1
    @tim That's how I understood it. "The only difference that it would be during work hours and the company would pay for the course but not the hours spent. "
    – jo1storm
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 9:50

Another angle is the fact you're in a Third World country.

This is confusing me as I don’t understand their reasons to act like that.

I'm in a developing nation, I dodged all university courses offered to me back in my younger days, because certification from the local Universities is worthless anywhere else and I wanted to compete professionally on an international level. So while I took every single internationally recognised certification offered to me, the local ones were (in my opinion) a waste of effort.

  • I don't think this is a valid view in our context. Even if "most" institutions could be seen as a "waste of effort", the university providing this certification is the best in the country by far (in every university ranking) and it has the popularity and recognition among citizens. Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 16:19
  • 23
    @DanielBaquero it doesn't have to be valid to you, just to the people you're trying to convince
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 16:26
  • 11
    @DanielBaquero, Instead of guessing, just speak to them one-on-one. Figure out what the problem is. There is really no point in arguing with us. We're also just speculating. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 8:11

While the certification may be expensive to obtain if you don't pay people to do it and they don't get a raise after they receive it they it has no value to them. If you can't provide them value directly through payment you'll need to incentivize the behavior you want through other means. Benefits, advancement, reduced workload, more flexible hours, or a free meal are some other common ways employers encourage people to do extra things that benefit the company. Personally, I am averse to doing anything I am not paid to do but one employer offered a free lunch if you participated in an hour of training while we ate and in my first year I had an additional 50h of training from that weekly event. It's amazing what you can get people to do for a chicken sandwich.

As a final thought, if the certification is inherently valuable and would improve their employability across the board be careful that isn't the only incentive to get it. If you do this you may struggle with retention as they realize they can get more money elsewhere. The last thing you want to do is pay for all that training just to have your competitors benefit from it.

  • 2
    This explicitly makes an excellent point skated over elsewhere: the OP is getting this training at a steep discount, and that is of considerable value to his/her employer - but it is of no significance to the employees. To get them onboard, it has to have value to them; or as you say, "incentivize the behavior you want through other means".
    – MadHatter
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 8:19
  • Yes, the certification needs to be value for future work not just this employer. And senior employees have probably earned certificates that are now useless.
    – danak
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 16:11

In a society like yours (guess where I know from), people see all the "certification" stuff as bullshit. This is why a lot of them are reluctant to assign any personal resources on it. More so if the resource in question (e.g. time) is limited.

Not that they are completely wrong. It is the training and the education that do the things, not the certification itself. Is the certificate in question any good in tour country? Probably not much.

The other factor (also society-driven) is the people's pretty short planning horizon. There may be some long term benefit for the certificate holder. How much long?

And then, some people don't like studying and taking exams. It's personal and a little can be done about it.

People are also afraid of changes.

What you can do?

  1. Ask what's wrong. Not that everyone will tell the truth, but you may get useful hints.
  2. Get only willing people involved.
  • 4
    A lot of successful professionals in the US view certification as bullshit. Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 22:08
  • @TechInquisitor in a lot of senses, a high-rank professional in a "first world" countri is in the same environment as the people I talk about. The most important similarity is that one rarely sees someone more competent.
    – fraxinus
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 8:42

The people that are not interested in going to these after-hours classes may simply have other obligations to deal with, such as kids, taking care of disabled or senior family members, have another job, are already taking night classes, public transportation doesn't go where they need to be, public transportation closes before the class ends, or any of 1000 other reasons why they simply can't spare the time or can't make these classes work.

In these cases (not including the people who may just be obstinate, dislike school, or otherwise make a specific decision they don't want to go), you simply will not be able to get them to change their minds. Their situation makes the decision for them, rather than them simply disagreeing with the need for these classes.

Regardless of their situation, you are intending to take away from their personal lives. Everyone needs downtime to rest and relax. Some need more than others. I know that if I'm not allowed time to be creative, to build things, to do something other than work, I get overly stressed, burned out, my carpal tunnel acts up, my energy remains drained, and I simply am not able to perform well at work or anything else I do. Not to mention getting depressed by not being able to do what I want or bored by the repetitive nature work can be.

As other answers here say, take the win with the people who are enthused to go. You don't need 100% participation to make this a success.

If you want to get more participation, talk to people individually to see why they aren't willing or able to attend the classes and see if you can work around their schedule or to otherwise make it easier for them to attend. Even then, you are still unlikely to get 100% participation.

Once you get some people with these classes complete and earn certifications, they can teach others, during working hours, who didn't take the course. Transferring information this way will be a lot more palatable to many more people. Those learning on-the-job may never get a certification, but they will still likely be doing higher quality work than they had been. That's a type of win, too.

Take the wins when and where you can get them, even if they aren't perfect. Often, striving for perfection isn't worth the time and effort.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .