Future of learning blog

Combating the problem of learner motivation

Learner motivation is one of the biggest challenges L&D professionals face. How can we motivate our people to become engaged with the learning experiences we create? 

At the HR Leadership Summit 2020 we were asked about improving and increasing learner motivation, and we want to share our insights on learner motivation with you all. 

How can we improve people’s motivation to learn?

Improving learner motivation can be hard, especially when the individual is competent or expert in what they already do and doesn’t see the need to change, grow or learn. So what can we do to make our learning more effective and increase motivation to learn?

What’s in it for me?

To improve people’s motivation to learn in these instances you have to work with them to show the benefits of learning. Focusing on the “what’s in it for me” angle. How will taking part in this learning experience benefit them? Share the big vision, and encourage small steps or actions to change. Get them curious about what they might be able to do with the new skills or competencies they’ve gained.  

Another great way to improve learner motivation is borrowing ideas from our friends in marketing and tapping into the modern ‘influencer culture’, and echoing it in your organisation. Work with early adopters and encourage them to be ambassadors of new ways of working. 

For many of your people, the reluctance to learn will come back to the fear of change.  So, don’t over emphasise the change. Encourage people to also find what won’t change in order to reduce the perceived threat.


Break it into chunks

Chunking your learning into bite sized snippets is great for learner motivation. It’s less disruptive to people’s work, and it’s much easier to find 30 minutes to learn something and then apply it rather than to have to plan a whole day out of work. 

Build in work based actions as a significant part of the programme so people are already applying what they learn as they learn it. Then build in rewards and nudges to keep up that application – peer and manager support can be hugely powerful here.


Should we offer incentives to learn?

If you want your organisation to thrive then you need people who can learn. In turn, they become one of the ‘resources’ where you invest your time and money. You wouldn’t expect to install an expensive new piece of hardware or software and not keep it in good repair with regular updates, fixes and upgrades. Our people are our biggest investment so we need to invest in them and not expect them to limp along with old software and occasional patches. 

It is therefore your responsibility as an organisation to motivate and incentivise your people to learn. Rewards in the shape of certificates and badges, nudges and a pat on the back from management are age-old in learning. But if you want to create a true learning organisation, you’ll have to incentivise your people properly. 

Take a holistic approach to learning and development, link it to career growth and KPIs, help your people learn the skills and competencies they need to progress within your company.  Whether your incentive is professional development, career growth or even bonuses, it is your responsibility to motivate your people.