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Nine tricks to motivate your employees to train and learn

Nine tricks to motivate your employees to train and learn

If you think back to your own time training or studying, you will surely remember how much easier it was to learn when you were interested in a module. You knew from the outset that you could and would use the knowledge later. You were motivated. Today, too, the success of internal training lives and dies with motivation. As successful learning within a company goes hand-in-hand with economic success, we’ve put together nine tricks you can use to inspire and motivate your employees to take advantage of eLearning opportunities!


What exactly is motivation?

In general, psychologists speak of motivation as when people change their behavior. It is based on the needs, motives and goals people have within themselves and that trigger specific, goal-oriented behavior as a result of opportunity or incentive. Ideally, the motivation lasts until the desired goal is reached.


Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation

We can distinguish between two different types of motivation based on the reasons why people do things, i.e. on their own initiative or because something “outside” creates incentives for them. Often both types of motivation—the internal (intrinsic) and the external (extrinsic)—exist in parallel. Both types of motivation can be specifically increased in eLearning. So here’s a closer look at the two types of learning motivation:


Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsically motivated individuals draw their motivation from the activity or task itself. This type of motivation therefore results from the learner’s desire to achieve or avoid a particular thing. In the learning context, this means that the more relevant and applicable the content, the more desirable the learning objective for the individual, the higher the self-motivation to learn.

Extrinsic motivation

Whereas intrinsic motivation comes from within learners themselves, extrinsic motivation arises from external stimuli. These are specific additional incentives that encourage actions that will bring benefits.  Such incentives can be, for example, earning certificates, titles (employee of the month), bonuses, salary increases, promotions…


Of course, it’s easy to motivate people with incentives. However, intrinsic motivation always has a longer lasting and more powerful effect. What could motivate a person more strongly than their own will? The good news: Intrinsic motivation can also be influenced, at least indirectly. The following nine tricks are therefore aimed at increasing intrinsic motivation. Additional incentives that increase extrinsic motivation should act only as “the cherry on top”.


Nine tricks to help you increase motivation

1. Appealing, intuitive course design

We all know websites and programs where functions and pages are hidden, buttons and menus are hard to find, and the content is confusing. Imagine having to struggle through an online course with these issues during an already exhausting learning process—you’d probably tire of it quickly and lose motivation.

This makes it all the more important to pay attention not only to the content itself, but also to its presentation! Intuitive course design motivates learners through 

  • Clarity (How much have I already learned? Where in the course am I? What topics are still to come?)
  • Varied formats and methods to address as many learning style preferences as possible 
  • Didactically effective preparation that prevents boredom arising in the first place. 

A distinctive corporate design also ensures that employees can quickly identify with the company.

Therefore, when choosing your authoring tool, make sure that the courses are displayed clearly on all devices by default (keyword here: responsivity). You should be able to include navigation, tables of contents, and have a variety of didactically proven elements at your disposal.


2. Self-determination

It’s not just design and innovative learning concepts that motivate people to learn. An important and unfortunately often underestimated factor in the learning process is self-determination. Ask yourself when would you be more motivated to learn: If you were forced to learn on the fly, regardless of whether or not you needed the knowledge at the time, or if the content aligned with your own goals? Or if the new knowledge would help you solve a specific problem?

The answer to these questions shows that self-determination can have an immense effect on motivation. Therefore, the guiding principle should always be to give your employees the greatest possible freedom over the learning process, for example by 

  • Selecting the content
  • Being free to manage their time
  • Learning at their own pace
  • Free choice of where to learn
  • Being able to define the sequence of courses
  • Being free to choose between different learning methods

So, for example, if you can’t give a choice of content (e.g. with a virtual data protection training course), you can give your employees the freedom to learn at a time of their choosing, i.e. when a gap in work naturally arises, rather than when the current project needs to be completed.


3. Role model function

We find role models and people to whom we look to orient ourselves in all areas of life—including at work. Be it the developer who cracks every bug in the code in five minutes, or the supervisor who rocks every trade show appearance. There is often untapped potential lying dormant within them. A role model that can be brought into learning processes in a motivating way. Maybe with a video message in which the developer explains why a course was particularly helpful, or a tutorial in the “Better Presenting” course where the supervisor explains her personal strategy. Of course, these are just two examples we’ve made up, but we are sure that any number of scenarios like this can be found in your company.


4. Gamification

Each and every one of us still has an innate play instinct. No wonder, then, that this is used to take a playful approach to imparting knowledge, values, and norms, particularly when teaching children and adolescents. This play instinct, however, is not limited to childhood. It lasts a lifetime—even if we often let it go to waste as adults. That’s why gamification is considered a game changer in eLearning, to lighten up learning processes and make learning literally “child’s play”. 

Point systems, challenges, levels, rankings—gamification adopts common mechanisms from the computer games industry and transfers them to other areas, for example, to eLearning. In this way, it is not only the play instinct that is activated, but also emotions such as curiosity, ambition, pride and competitiveness. This creates a playful incentive for people to constantly improve their score or rank and to do better than other participants.


5. Nuggets over macro courses

Demand for knowledge to be made available quickly and for problems to be solved fast is rising rapidly. Networked technologies are everywhere, and they enable us to meet this demand: We can google dinner recipes, information on building a shelf, or a video tutorial on playing the ukulele. The same thing is happening in the agile world of work. The effect: We no longer stock up on knowledge, but instead acquire it through a Google search in response to problems and needs, often before, after, or alongside our work. 

This informal form of learning is already going on and is worth supporting. Because as we already know, the more relevant and need-oriented the learning, the better the motivation. So why not offer the knowledge in small learning units—sometimes called nuggets—which, in keeping with our new media consumption tendencies, can simply be “snacked” on when we need them? This not only creates motivation through relevance, but also sustainable consolidation of the knowledge through immediate application.


6. Adaptive learning

The megatrend of individualization is everywhere. In entertainment, online advertising, services, and products that are tailored to our personal preferences and needs. A development that is also, and especially, good for eLearning processes, since companies that use eLearning are always faced with the challenge of maintaining a personal approach to learners. The technical solutions have been around for a long time now, and are often referred to collectively with the term “adaptive learning”. 

In adaptive learning, digital learning processes are tailored to the individual needs of all learners. The most popular example is what is known as pre-tests, which check the learner’s current level of knowledge and adapt the learning process accordingly. So instead of dishing out the same content to all learners, individually tailored courses motivate by neither under- nor over-challenging them.


7. Inclusion and diversity

Imagine not being able to access all of the learning content for your course due to a technical limitation. Or it repeatedly uses examples you cannot identify with at all. Depending on how strong and permanent this exclusion feels, sooner or later you will experience frustration—the polar opposite of positive motivation. Therefore, make sure to include everyone. From people with disabilities (inclusion) to all the different life situations that can be found in your company (diversity). From young, working parents and older people, to people with different native languages, BIPoC…

In our articles on inclusion and diversity, you will find extensive lists of the technical and content aspects you’ll need to consider. Professional eLearning tools provide the necessary tools to make the technical adjustments quickly and easily.


8. Positive error culture

Hardly anyone has integrated the idea that mistakes are not a step backward, but part of the path forward into the future, into their company better and earlier than Japanese carmakers. Not long after the Second World War, companies such as Toyota began to introduce the Kaizen philosophy. In each small step taken, errors are discovered, their sources identified, and the step improved. Employees are actively involved by reporting errors, finding potential error sources, and making suggestions on how to avoid them—even if this means stopping the entire production process. 

It is obvious that this error culture is very different from ours here in central Europe, where mistakes have always been punished and people have been brought up for generations with the belief that they should never make mistakes. A positive error culture cannot, of course, be introduced overnight. However, internal training is a great place to start. Allow for different learning paces and repetition of intermediate tests as often as needed. Do not reward users for learning particularly quickly, and talk openly and encouragingly with learners about the aspects of the courses that are causing difficulty.


9. Recognition of learning time

Especially when eLearning is first introduced, it is often expected that the training will take place alongside regular working hours without changing the learner’s normal duties. If we remember our training and studies of the past, however, we should actually know what enormous cognitive resources are involved in reading new information alone, especially if the goal is to remember the content as well. If learning takes place alongside an unchanged workday, there are hardly any cognitive resources left to learn. The result: Lack of concentration, frustration, reduced self-confidence because the learning process simply does not want them to succeed, demotivation. 

Therefore, motivate your employees by valuing their commitment to learning through free learning time and a reduction in their day-to-day duties. Show them that the learning process is of equal importance to their work and that you are aware of how exhausting learning is.


The bottom line.

Any method you use to increase your employees’ motivation—in addition to the obvious positive effects for the learners—always brings economic benefits as well. Even if these cannot be recognized or measured at first glance. Motivated employees learn faster and more effectively (saving time) and can also apply their knowledge more sustainably (more productive, goal-oriented work with greater success). At the same time, a positive, motivating learning culture naturally strengthens employee loyalty in the long term—an advantage that should not be underestimated when you consider how much the process of finding new employees and training them costs alone. An investment in a positive learning culture is always an investment in your company and its long-term profitability.

Magda Lehnert | Blogger
Magda Lehnert

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