9 Ways to Maximize Motivation for Workplace Training

If you can design your training to make your learners feel like they belong to something, that they and their circumstances are similar to others, and that they matter, you will enhance the learning experience for them.

Not all adult learners are naturally self-motivating, even if they are interested in the topic of the training.

Training departments are missing out on higher levels of success if they are not carefully designing workplace training around learner motivations. Successful trainers and Learning & Development (L&D) teams have in place ways of ensuring that students have both the motivation and the guidance to complete their program.

As adult educators and educational leaders, we must ensure learners value the benefits of the learning outcomes and training completion and that we are monitoring and encouraging progress during and after their learning journey.

Here are nine ways you can maximize the motivation of your learners so they can achieve success.

Elements of Motivation

Workplace training can be improved by identifying four key elements of learner motivation:

  1. What the learner motivators are to ensure they start their program highly motivated in the first place
  2. What detracts from and damages individual learner motivation
  3. How to encourage and support each individual to meet his or her motivational needs most effectively
  4. How to re-engage learners whose motivation has decreased during the training period

1. Identify Your Learner’s Motivators

Even in compulsory training, your learners can be intrinsically motivated to engage for a number of reasons. Uncovering what they are can act as a powerful resource for maximizing engagement, retention, and completion rates of your training.

Since motivation can be affected by many internal and external factors—such as the learning environment, time of day, the learners’ socio-economic background and personal values, other people around them, and even the different food they have been eating—using our knowledge of learner motivators is a powerful method of keeping engagement at its highest in conjunction with other learner engagement strategies.

According to Lieb, there are six major “motivators” behind why people might engage in any activity. These include:

  • Social relationships: To make new friends.
  • External expectations: To fulfill the expectations or recommendations of someone else.
  • Social welfare: To improve ability to serve mankind, prepare for service to the community, and improve ability to participate in community work.
  • Personal advancement: To achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay ahead of competitors.
  • Escape/stimulation: To relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine at home or work, and provide a contrast to the monotony of everyday life.
  • Cognitive interest: To learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and satisfy an inquiring mind.

So how do we as trainers, course developers, and adult educators, facilitate this?

This is where guidance comes in.

A self-directed or autonomous learning approach alone could leave a learner feeling lonely, unsupported, and lost. This is why we should avoid totally self-directed learning, such as completely online learning courses that have zero facilitation, interaction, or guidance from a “real” human, if we want to instigate true transformation.

This is when the “teacher” needs to become the “facilitator” to avoid isolation yet provide enough freedom to keep learners feeling empowered over their own learning journey.

2. Know When to Teach or Facilitate

Teaching is when we impart our knowledge to our learners in a traditionally more teacher-centered, dictatorial methodology, whereas facilitation is when the educator creates a learning environment that encourages self-exploration to the extent that learners “learn how to learn” for themselves. In this semi-independent pursuit of learning, Merriam suggests that educators are required to assist individuals or groups of learners in “locating resources or mastering alternative learning strategies,” not in providing answers to learners “on a plate.”

To increase motivation, encourage learners to first identify WHY finding the answer or solution to a given activity is:

a. Relevant to them, their jobs, their family, and their lives

b. How getting that result, solution, or answer will directly benefit them

These each relate to the adult learning principles of “relevance,” which tells us that in order for learners to be fully engaged and motivated to learn, they first must understand why and how it is relevant and important to them and their life.

The next step is to facilitate an educational process whereby learners seek out their own answer, solution, and assistance. This could be through learning communities, peer-learning environments, or learning technologies. Then set self-reported and formal check-ins on their progress at set review points. This is the “self-directed” principle of adult learning, which situates our role as the metaphorical lighthouse that guides our students as they willingly steer their own educational ship.

3. Foster Flexible Engagement

You also can design training that provides engagement flexibility, such as enabling learners to enroll when and how they like (this works best with online learning), to engage with your content when and how they like, to apply your theory into their own practice in their own way (contextualized activities), and to feel as though they are responsible for their own practical and theoretical success as they progress through your training program—yet do it in a way that does not leave them isolated and alone.

4. Foster Willingness to Attend

One of the great things about teaching in the post-compulsory sector of education is that most learners engage voluntarily. When learners want to learn, this makes for a much smoother educational process. However, in the case of some workplace learning, welfare-sector training, and prison education, I can say from significant personal experience that learners frequently have no choice. They must enroll. In these circumstances, more than ever, the course creator and facilitator must ensure they have planned the training in a way that will enhance the participant’s motivation to learn—so that after the first session, they continue to come back willingly.

One way of doing this is to ensure that the course descriptions, learning outcomes, and objectives are outlined clearly and communicated with the learners prior to the program starting so they can get excited about the results they will be getting by attending.

Second, design training that provides transformation and tangible results in the first session instead of introducing the program with a heavy emphasis on the theory. Adults are results oriented and need to see that any investment of their time is a worthwhile one. By giving them some immediate quick wins and results from the outset, you will multiply the chances of them willingly coming back for more.

5. Show Appreciation and Respect

I would argue that this is a human right more than an educational principle. Our learners want to be respected as much as we do. As such, managing our classroom, virtual or physical, needs to be done in a way that ensures our learners feel equal to us. Check your language for condescending connotations, your physical position looking down or up at them (on screen or in person), and make sure you coming across as sharing information rather than “dictating” it.

6. Nurture a Collaborative Community

Research shows that learning is enhanced when it occurs in a network or community. Even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows us that a “sense of belonging” is critical to survival. If you can design your training to make your learners feel like they belong to something, that they and their circumstances are similar to others, and that they matter, you will enhance the learning experience for them. Facilitate an environment (virtual or physical) where learners feel comfortable asking each other for help and advice, where they work together, collaborate, and build friendships outside of the formal learning schedule.

7. Formalize Action and Implementation

True transformation only happens when learners have had the opportunity to implement strategies that will move them from point A to point B. Ensure that you have designed specific opportunities and scheduled time for “doing” and implementing what they have learned in your training.

As learners progress through the training, the more tangible results you can obtain for them, the higher their motivation and overall appraisal of the training is likely to be.

8. Conduct Critical Reflection

Reflection is a powerful learning methodology in adult education. It is about creating much deeper cognitive, affective, and perceptual transformations in your learners by facilitating reflective learning in your program. This is about getting them to look retrospectively and from different viewpoints at their topic, and consider their progression through it in a way that can provoke learning beyond the scope of the curriculum.

9. Facilitate Self-Direction

Adult learners hate to feel controlled, manipulated, or stifled by anyone or anything. The more we can allow for individual influence and self-directed learning opportunities in our training programs, the more motivated our learners will feel to continue engaging in it.

Making Motivation Work for You

As adult education professionals, we can never entirely control the way our learners are feeling, but using a few simple techniques, we can massage their learning motivation—giving them the best opportunity for enjoyment and successful completion of their training.

Sarah Cordiner is a four-time international No. 1 best-selling author, TV host, podcaster, qualified educator, and professional speaker. She was named Huffington Post’s Top 50 Must-Follow Female Entrepreneur for 2017. Cordiner has 11 years of experience in business and education and more than 10,000 students in 131 countries. She combines education and entrepreneurship as the EDUpreneur’s leader in “profitably educating your marketplace.” Learn more about applying the theory and principles of adult learning to your training in Cordiner’s book. For more information:

Web: www.sarahcordiner.com

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahcordiner

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