The role of motivation in online corporate training

Written by Blaze Haselau
Jan 17, 2018

Participant motivation is the keystone of any online course. Without it, even the best training efforts will be for naught.

If participants are not motivated to learn then they will not engage with the content or persevere with their studies.

To put it simply: if you cannot find a way to motivate employees, they won’t learn much – or anything at all.

The popularity of online corporate training is growing at a rapid rate. The reason that companies are turning to this as their preferred mode of instruction, is that it offers numerous benefits – specifically for the facilitation of training. Because employees can complete the training online, they have access to knowledge on demand, which means that training can take place at any time, and the learning is self-paced. All of these factors make online training far more appealing than conventional methods.

However, online training also presents a noteworthy obstacle, which should not be underestimated: motivation. When considering the role of motivation in online training, the famous proverb holds true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. If employees have no desire to learn, it is doubtful that you will see a return on investment for the time, effort and revenue spent on developing a course.

Motivation is ultimately what drives the learner to engage with the content, which is necessary for both knowledge absorption and retention. From this perspective, it is what fuels their desire to learn, participate in course activities, persevere in their studies, and feel rewarded for their efforts at the end of the course.

Types of motivation in online learning

Generally speaking, motivation can take two forms. The first is extrinsic motivation. This occurs when an employee is motivated to complete the course due to a tangible reward (e.g. promotion or salary increase), or alternatively, faces a negative consequence for failing to complete the course (e.g. demotion or financial penalty).

The second form of motivation is arguably the most important – namely, intrinsic motivation. This occurs when an employee is driven entirely by internal rewards; in other words, simply because they want to do something. An intrinsically motivated employee will perceive the training as being personally beneficial to them; as such, they will be excited to learn, and will view the training as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills.

If neither of these forms of motivation are present, the information is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Tips to increase motivation in online corporate training

The following tips are useful for aiding motivation. Importantly, they can be adapted and applied in a variety of different contexts.

  1. Relevance: Demonstrate the value of the content, by showing how it can be applied in the workplace, as well as through real-world examples. This allows employees to see how they can make use of the knowledge, once they have acquired it.
  2. Attention: Long reams of text and repetitive activities can quickly become boring, and lead to loss of focus. To avoid this, divide the information into smaller portions, and include a variety of interactive, multimedia activities. This will pique the employee’s curiosity, and keep them interested.
  3. Confidence: Lack of confidence can quickly lead to demotivation. To build the employee’s confidence, remember to provide constructive feedback, progression tracking, and ample encouragement throughout.
  4. Achievement: It is difficult for learners to feel motivated if they don’t have an idea of how they are faring. From this perspective, progress indicators are invaluable. Informal assessments or quizzes can be utilised to provide a sense of achievement and encouragement.
  5. Learning culture: Create a company learning culture, by stimulating motivation at a collective level. This can be achieved by including tangible rewards (i.e. extrinsic motivators), thereby incentivising employees to participate in courses.
  6. Challenge: Lack of stimulation is another demotivating factor. If employees don’t feel challenged by the content, it is unlikely that they are learning anything new or building on prior knowledge. It is vital to pitch the content at the right level, in order to increase interest, and allow employees to feel that the training is beneficial to them.
  7. Agency: It is often helpful to give employees a degree of control over their training; for example, by allowing them to choose when and where to do the course. This promotes ‘just-in-time’ learning, and prevents employees from perceiving the training as an interruption or inconvenience.
  8. Gamification: Adding elements of gamification can significantly increase engagement, enjoyment and motivation. As such, it may be helpful to incorporate leader boards, point systems, badges and other game-like elements into the course, to stimulate positive social competition among employees.

Each work environment comes with a unique set of characteristics, which will play an important role in how employees are likely to be motivated (or demotivated). However, if applied correctly, these tips can greatly enhance motivation for online corporate training, and can determine the difference between success and failure.

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