The #1 reason employees say they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don't have the time. It is a common finding in many of our industry trend reports. It’s hard knowing how to motivate employees to make time for training. There have been many times when our company has met with a potential client, and they’ve wondered: “But how do we get our people to engage with this awesome new training tool (/software/process/LMS/etc.)?”
Here are some of the key components you’ll need for doing just that, based on current adult learning theory and decades of cumulative experience in rolling out training programs.
9 Tips to Help Motivate Employees to Make Time for Training
#1: Learning Culture. Every organization has a learning culture. Having the right learning culture can be highly motivating for employees and encourage learning, while a poor learning culture can actually demotivate people and slow learning. (And there are other benefits of a true learning culture, too.) You can be intentional about cultivating the right kind of learning culture in your organization, which will naturally motivate your employees to learn.
#2: Manager Training. Managers have a huge and direct effect on employee engagement with any task. A classic study by Gallup found that an organization’s managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. All the more reason managers need to be taught how to make training a priority for employees, too. For example, managers need to allow time in employees’ schedules for training, encourage them to pursue training on their own, assign courses and deadlines for required training, and enforce those deadlines if needed. Sometimes, simply knowing there is “room” in the schedule for training activities is enough to motivate employees to participate.
#3: Employee Recognition. Recognize and reward employees who have completed their training, and who have improved their skills over time. Doing so not only reinforces good learning habits, it shows that you really do value training and skills growth. Other coworkers who witness the recognition will also be encouraged to make time for training, too. This recognition can be formal or informal, and can include even simple acts like a kind note in an email or a mention at the next team meeting.
#4: Accessible Library. Have you ever gotten lost in a bookstore or library? Or found yourself browsing page after page on Amazon, finding tons of good publications on a topic you were really interested in? Sometimes just knowing you have access to tons of material on topics you are specifically interested in motivates you to explore more. So start with a well-curated training library with a wide variety of topics—this will maximize your chances that there is something that will be of interest to every one of your employees. Then, give them access to that library. Employees will explore it on their own and direct much of their own learning. (On the flip-side, having too many courses can be overwhelming to both learners and administrators. See our whitepaper “How Many eLearning Courses Do You Really Need?”)
#5: Relevant Topics. This goes hand-in-hand with #4 above: If you are giving employees access to a library of training topics, make sure it’s full of up-to-date and relevant content! For example, most learning libraries, including ours here at ej4, cover basics like anti-harassment training and sales training. On top of those, we also cover topics like cybersecurity, cultural sensitivity, diversity, and even a course for managers who suspect an employee has an opioid addiction problem. These topics are timely and relevant, and so are much more likely to be useful to employees and managers.
#6: Self-Directed Learning. When you have a large, accessible library of relevant and timely content, you have the beginnings of a program for self-directed learning. Self-directed learning is simply a system for allowing individual learners to direct their own learning, depending on their individual needs and interests. For example, some employees might struggle with time management and appreciate the opportunity to learn how to manage their time better. Others might appreciate learning basic finance with a course like our Finance for Non-Financial People. The idea here is that people will be more motivated to make time for training on topics they themselves choose, versus ones that management chooses for them.
#7: Social Learning. Once your learners have gotten their feet wet with self-directed learning, you can help motivate them further with social learning. For example, you can let your learners “follow” each other and connect with their friends and colleagues to see what courses are popular. Colleagues can also share and recommend courses—sometimes, your employees know each other better than management, and so can make better recommendations! A leaderboard can then encourage a little friendly competition, which can really get them motivated.
#8: Mobile Learning. If you want employees to learn on their own, and you want them to make time for learning when they can, you must make it possible for them to access your content anytime, anyplace. That means making your training content mobile accessible. Imagine an employee watching a short course on How to Become a Great Conversationalist while waiting at the gate at the airport, or watching (and sharing!) a video on Becoming a Great Leader on the carpool into work in the morning. With mobile learning, moments that have traditionally been “wasted time” can now be used for learning and gaining insight.
#9: Microlearning. Wait, you can learn to become a great conversationalist while waiting to board a plane? Or how to become a great leader while your coworker drives into work? In short, yes, you can...if those topics are broken down into meaningful, bite-sized pieces. The average length of a training video in our library is 7:12 minutes. Not only is this the perfect run time to maximize learning (you can read about the science of microlearning supporting this in our whitepaper), it’s easy to fit into busy schedules and complete during those “down” moments—much more so than an hour-long instructor-led session.
Autonomy and Support are Key to Motivating Employees to Make the Time
If there are two themes running through all of these ideas, they are autonomy and support.
People are more motivated to pursue their goals when they have the freedom to do so on their own. Allowing employees to direct some of their own learning and pursue topics that interest them will encourage more engagement with training across the board. Sometimes, employees simply need to feel they have permission to do so in order to get started.
That autonomy has to be supported, however. By improving accessibility, widening the breadth of topics covered, having managers encourage training, and recognizing learning milestones, you can create the ultimate supportive learning culture.
- For more on the benefits of a positive learning culture, download our whitepaper "10 Benefits of a True Learning Culture."
- Likewise, you can read about the benefits of using off-the-shelf content by downloading our whitepaper "7 Ways Off-the-Shelf Content Brings Value to Organizations."
- For more on building a learning culture, see my article “Leading the Way to a Learning Culture.”
- For more on the science behind microlearning (and some debunked myths about adult learning in general), see our whitepaper “The Science of Microlearning.”