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How to Drive Employee Motivation and Performance with Training

October 12, 2022 | By Asha Pandey


How to Drive Employee Motivation and Performance with Training

Motivated employees find greater meaning in their work, excel at their jobs, and are therefore more likely to remain with the company longer.
Employees often look to learning and development opportunities as key drivers to motivate them at work. Not only does L&D enhance employee performance but it also gives learners “hope” for bettering their prospects with their current employer.
In fact, a recent study by McKinsey stated 41% of the employees leave their employer because they see no career development or advancement prospect.

So, how can you drive employee motivation with training?

In this article, I outline the impact of motivation on employee performance, and how you can drive employee motivation through training. Read this article to learn:

Why Does Employee Motivation Matter?

Motivated employees find greater meaning in their work, excel at their jobs, and are therefore more likely to remain with the company longer. This employee cohort also performs better than the non-motivated segment of the workforce.

What drives this motivation? According to a Udemy Academy survey, 54% of those polled said having more time to learn at work and 46% felt learning paths personalized to their goals would help motivate them.

But that’s not the only reason that employee motivation matters. Employee performance and motivation are interconnected. Motivated employees are happier and deliver higher levels of performance. Once employee compensation reaches a plateau or is no longer a primary consideration, employees look to learning and development (L&D) opportunities as key drivers to motivate them at work. Not only does L&D enhance employee performance, but it also gives learners “hope” for bettering their prospects with their current employer. And learning and skills development can also open external opportunities for trained employees.

What Is the Impact of Motivation on Employee Performance?

Motivation is a virtue cycle, wherein:

  • Employees seek learning opportunities to do their jobs better.
  • They apply that learning to the workplace, and they perform well.
  • This keeps them satisfied and motivated and may even lead to financial or professional recognition and reward for their performance gains.
  • This spikes motivation levels, and they then seek even more learning opportunities.

In short, a motivated employee is a higher-performing employee! While motivation isn’t the only driver of performance, it certainly is a key element thereof. Motivated employees grow personally, professionally, individually, and as team players, and are therefore better performers. The alternative for dealing with unmotivated, low-performing employees is letting them go. However, that entails a further cost for the company, including hiring, onboarding, and training costs.

The more trainings they attend, the more motivated employees get, and that results in enhanced performance. The question, however, is how to motivate employees to attend training.

How Does L&D Play a Critical Role in Motivating and Retaining Employees?

Forty-one percent of employees leave their employer because they see no career development or advancement prospect. Because employees are assets that power org-wide performance, it’s critical to have a motivated workforce, rather than one that isn’t so. And, like one continually develops and invests in other long-term assets, such as repairs and maintenance, renovations, and refurbishments, employers must invest in the workforce through L&D programs.

Top reasons for quitting previous job.

With a team that’s worked well together for a long time, the impact of motivation on employee performance is clear. The more you invest in L&D programs for your employees, the higher loyalty and retention rates you’ll command from them. And, because of their org-specific expertise developed over their long service, long-time employees are higher-performing assets worth retaining.

How Does Learner Needs Analysis (LNA) Lead to Trainings that Match Learners’ Preferences and Drive Better Motivation?

Regardless of how well your training programs are designed, if employees don’t attend them, they’re of limited value to the organization! If you’re wondering how to motivate employees to attend training, consider what employees really want from training programs.

Training, which packs a “wow” factor, is what motivates learners to pursue continuous learning. Unfortunately, while most instructional designers and L&D professionals focus on building “wow-able” learning, the outcomes often don’t resonate with their target audience. And learners will only be motivated to embrace training if it provides them with what they’re searching for.

To ensure that learning matches the needs and aspirations of learners and that there’s a positive impact of motivation on employee performance, L&D teams must design training around learner personas – hypothetical learner profiles that are generated using real-world learner data. These profiles are built through a learner needs analysis (LNA). This leads to training that matches learners’ preferences and thereby leads to better motivation. The right LNA leverages multiple data points such as age, gender, cultural aspects, social interests, professional aspirations, preferred learning approaches, and styles. Learning designers then use the learner personas to create the most appropriate learning design for motivating specific segments of learners to embrace training.

How Can You Motivate Employees with Training?

The following strategies can help employee performance and motivation through training:

  • Provide growth opportunities (training and support on the job, self-directed learning, learning culture): Don’t just empower employees with training that makes them perform current jobs more efficiently. Instead, show them how, with the appropriate training, they can also grow – horizontally and vertically – within the organization.
  • Offer personalized learning paths aligned to their careers: Instead of putting employees on a “diet” of cookie-cutter training, motivate them to embrace training that’s specifically built to align with their personal career paths. A web designer will see more value in a Java or CSS-themed course than a must-attend course on accounting.
  • Help your employees prepare for the future of work by providing continuous upskilling/reskilling opportunities: Few employees aspire to do what they’re doing now, forever! Most feel motivated by the prospect of continually upgrading their skills, through targeted learning programs, to take on new challenges – even if that means lateral growth, rather than moving higher up the organizational hierarchy, or leveraging training for opportunities outside the company.

How Do You Motivate Your Employees to Attend Training and Learn?

The average employee doesn’t embrace learning opportunities “just because they’re accessible at work.” Instead, based on studies conducted, there’s statistical evidence (Udemy Academy survey) that ties employee performance and motivation to learn to four distinct factors, including:

  • Their desire to grow (45%).
  • Their need to play catch-up (31%).
  • The influence of external factors beyond their control (8%).
  • A continuous thirst for learning (6%).

So, how can you motivate employees to attend training?

To get your employees to engage with content and learn, you must:

  1. Understand what motivates employees and demonstrate the impact of learning (performance, career growth, earning potential): Once you discover an employee’s motivation for learning, which is one of the key outcomes of learning needs analysis (LNA), you’ll never need to spend time “convincing” him/her to learn.
  2. Understand modern learners’ needs and match their expectations: The key to understanding the impact of motivation on employee performance, and inspiring them to attend training, is knowledge of what employees are looking for in terms of learning opportunities. An LNA is a critical tool in giving you that understanding. L&D teams must then design learning experiences to match those expectations.
  3. Leverage a Learning and Performance Ecosystem based approach: A “stand-alone” approach to training – simply offering one-off “popular” courses and classes – is unlikely to motivate employees to attend training. Instead, it’s important to build a Learning and Performance Ecosystem – a framework that drives continuous learning.
  4. Make your training attractive and invest in engaging learning content: Move away from static, text, or slide-based content, and embrace more engaging strategies, such as Gamification, 3D simulations, and Virtual/Augmented Virtual Reality (V/AVR) content.
  5. Reduce learning friction: Make learning accessible, available on demand, and on the device of their choice. Pivot to content-on-demand; mobile-enabled lessons; and accessible, responsive learning design.
  6. Make learning a part of everyday work, leverage LIFOW to drive learning and performance: Provide employees access to microlearning content, “How to” guides, interactive PDFs, and online templates, so they can leverage them at the point of need. Opportunities for learning in the flow of work (LIFOW) have a significant impact on employee performance and motivation to embrace a continuous path of learning, growing, and performing.
  7. Provide mentoring and coaching: Mentoring and coaching programs can motivate and support learners through continuous learning journeys.
  8. Leverage social learning: Peer motivation is the ideal way to encourage employees to join training events and learn from their cohorts. Employees learning from other employees is what social learning does best.
  9. Integrate job aids/PSTs to drive the application of learning on the job: Trainers mustn’t expect learners to retain 100% of the content they’ve been exposed to. Therefore, it’s important to supplement and support learning with on-the-job performance support tools and job aids. These may be as simple as Checklists or as complex as 3D visualizations of specific “How to…” content.

Parting Thoughts

This article demonstrated the impact of motivation on employee performance. Achieving peak workplace performance is a function of how well employees are trained to perform their jobs. A corollary to that objective (driving employee performance) is the motivation that employees have – to embrace learning opportunities afforded to them by the organization. The strategies discussed here show you how to motivate employees to attend training.

Learn how to design L&D programs that drive business performance.

Download this research brief developed by Brandon Hall Group in partnership with EI. The strategies and approaches shared in this research will help you create a stronger link between training investments and performance.



This article was first published in Training Industry.

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