Trainers and managers have known for decades that employees who are motivated to learn will more effectively consume training materials and perform better at their jobs.
But what exactly motivates employees today? And what are the best ways that eLearning courses can impact and motivate modern learners, including millennials — a group that will make up more than half of the workforce by 2020?
The truth is that people are motivated in different ways. It’s very tough to find a “one-size fits all” training solution that will meet the needs of your employees’ various personalities and personal drivers.
However, we can use some psychology to break down five distinct sources of motivation for corporate eLearners.
Source #1: Motivation of Growth and Achievement
Employee: “I want to gain the skills I need to achieve [this position/task/project] shortly.”
It’s easy to argue that there’s no greater motivation than personal growth and achievement — especially among young employees. A 2012 survey by staffing agency Adecco found that nearly 7 out of 10 recent college graduates called “growth and development” their top professional priority.
Employees are driven to achieve personal goals, take on challenges, improve skills, and demonstrate their ability to succeed. Individuals who feel that a task, activity, or training program will help achieve their own personal goals are far more likely to actively participate.
So how can your eLearning course help these employees who strive to achieve personal goals and grow in their field?
- Set clear milestones in your training program — and show employees the progress they are making along the way. If you want to add an element of competition to the mix through badges or leaderboards, go for it! You may find it’s just what you need to inspire your employees to achieve each new challenge you send their way.
- Encourage employees to set and track their professional goals. This will allow you, as their manager, to demonstrate your investment in helping them achieve growth that is important to them. You could give them the opportunity to customize their learning journey (take training at their own pace), or simply (visually) show them the connections between training courses and their personal goals.
- Provide regular feedback so employees can get an honest look at whether they’re on track to achieve the growth they desire.
Source #2: Motivation of Incentive/Reward
Employee: “I’m fine with doing [action] because I know it will get me [reward].”
While long-term growth and achievement motivate some employees, some are more interested in short-term rewards or recognition.
A “bonus” is a great example of an incentive that motivates employees to perform their work. If employees are told they will earn extra money for working over 40 hours in a week, some will be motivated to do it. The action is worth doing to achieve the reward.
You can integrate incentives into eLearning programs, too. You may be able to add tangible rewards like bonuses, awards, certificates or extra time off from work as rewards for completing training courses or programs.
Some employees may be motivated by rewards for the company’s growth as well. If company perks and overall morale are improved by achieving business goals (e.g. hitting a monthly sales goal), make that clear in the training programs. If something they are learning ties directly to company success state it loud and clear; they’ll remember and be motivated to do their part to get these company-wide rewards.
Source #3: Motivation of Social Belonging
Employee: “I want to feel a real part of this community, so I’m going to do [action].”
Many employees choose companies because of their culture and the peers they can interact with, and learn from, on the job.
You may be able to succeed more with eLearning programs in this aspect than you could with traditional training programs. Your programs can include many opportunities for active discussion online. You could also encourage your employees to provide one another with feedback to build this desired sense of community.
When an employee succeeds in a training program, highlight it on internal memos, company blogs, or social media pages.
By highlighting success cases, or by showing statistics about how large your eLearning participant community is, some employees may even experience FOMO (fear of missing out). This will motivate them to get involved as soon as possible so they can participate in this community.
Source #4: Power
Employee: “I want to feel in control of [job/learning/future] so I’m going to do [action].”
Whether it’s through pursuing leadership avenues or simply wanting to have control over one’s personal work environment, empowerment is a very strong form of motivation.
Millennial workers, especially, want to have control over their lives. Rather than being told what or how to do something, they want to have choices and options to learn and succeed in the environment that are best for them.
Setting up your eLearning courses to operate responsively — work well across a variety of desktop, tablet, and mobile devices — is a great place to start. If employees have the power to learn on-the-go at the time that works best for them, the training shifts from being an obligation to an opportunity.
Let your employees learn at their own pace and in the setting; that’s best for them. You may also want to identify those interested in pursuing a leadership track — and provide them with unique options so they will feel empowered to learn.
Source #5: Motivation of Fear
Employee: “I’m happy to do [action] because I really want to avoid [bad thing] from happening.”
Let’s be clear: it’s not advisable to threaten or scare your employees into taking an online training course.
You can, however, tie employee performance measurements to their participation in the training programs. By highlighting the importance of these programs (e.g. the need to learn how to operate heavy machinery to avoid bodily harm), employees will get the hint: They’ll sign up and get going right away.
More than likely, once employees do begin taking the courses, their motivation will shift to one of the other four types of motivation we’ve mentioned above.
Motivation is critical in any training or workplace development program.
Employees need to find motivation — whether for achievement/growth, rewards, a sense of belonging, out of fear, or driven by power — to perform their tasks to the best of their ability.
The best eLearning programs will strongly consider, and respond to, these styles of motivation. None of them are “good” or “bad,” but all of them can be used to create a motivated workforce.
You’ll know you’ve succeeded if your employees feel motivated to engage in your training programs — and then use that knowledge to work hard to succeed in their jobs.
6 Types of Motivation Explained http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/6-types-of-motivation-explained.html
Five Intrinsic Motivators and How They Impact Employee Engagement http://www.bunchball.com/blog/post/1591/five-intrinsic-motivators-and-how-they-impact-employee-engagement
The six types of motivation http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/2015/06/06/the-six-types-of-motivation/