Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
Many who are building elearning are relatively new to training and development. Certainly the development of technology to meet newly identified business issue is a lure. In less time than it took for desktop publishing to turn the common office worker into a graphic designer, educational technology has transformed many throughout the organization into instructional designers. Over the past five years technology has masked the need for instructional design. It has overlooked the basic principles of adult learning and turned a deaf ear to motivation theory.
Instead, the basic measures of success that we have grown to adopt are the number of courses taken and the reduction in cost that comes from replacing facetoface interactions with ecourses that have minimal support. We are failing to realize that perhaps human interaction is a key component of the learning process.
Despite all our mistakes over the years, the technologists are not solely to blame. Great and notsogreat learning experiences occurred before technology even entered the conversation. How often have we been guilty of blaming technology for ineffective courses and learning events, when as educational professionals we intrinsically know that learners will learn at great costs when the desire to learn is there?
Motivation and Incentives for Learning
Incentives and motivation in and of themselves are not the issue. Most would agree that what we’re chasing is the transfer of learning to the job (aka performance). Job performance is a function of both ability and motivation, or more aptly put:
Job performance = f(ability) (motivation)
Job performance can also be expressed another way:
Job performance = f(learning experience) (workplace environment)
For the purpose of our discussion, let’s assume that the learning experience meets with the Keller’s ACRS Model of Motivation standards:
- It grabs and maintains the learner’s attention.
- It is relevant to the learner’s life experiences with examples that the learner is familiar with.
- It allows students to develop confidence by building on success throughout the learning process.
- Students gain satisfaction from the opportunity to use newly acquired knowledge or skill in a real or simulated setting and by receiving feedback and reinforcement on their performance.
Given this, the greatest influencer of motivation is the workplace environment.
Where Does the Desire to Learn Come From?
Generally speaking, motivation can be broken down into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation includes the motivators that come from “outside”: from other people, situations, events and environments (aka incentives). For example, some workers may be motivated by raises in pay, accolades, promotions, bonuses, vacation time or the corner office. Others may have intrinsic, or internal, motivators such as personal pride, their love of the work itself, a strong work ethic or a particular value system.
According to “Beyond Free Coffee and Donuts” by Sophie Oberstein, when it comes to engaging learners, these are the top motivators:
- There’s a clear connection between training and the work they do.
- They value personal growth.
- Training is required.
- Training is tied to career advancement.
- Training is valued organizationally.
- Learners receive recognition for completion.
- Classroom interventions are opportunities to meet others.
- Stepping away from the office often invigorates people.
- They’ve had positive experiences with training in the past.
- They are compensated for participation.
- Training was well marketed.
In a 200 study by Elliott Masie and the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), “ELearning: If We Build It, Will They Come?” Masie identified three similar findings specific to elearning. The top three success factors were:
- Course offerings were well marketed.
- Workplace environment supports learning by providing a time and space to learn on company time culture encourages and appreciates elearning and a peer support system is widely available.
- Meaningful incentives provide valuable benefits such as career advancement and peer recognition.
Alternatively, here is the of the top demotivators:
- There is no accountability.
- Learners are uncomfortable with the learning methodology.
- Learners cannot get off work for training.
- The time or location is inconvenient.
- They don’t lack motivation they just don’t need training.
Not once did technology appear on these s. Creating the demand for learning, especially technologybased learning, has to do with the workplace environment. Unfortunately, in the past we made one simple, untrue assumption—we assumed that technology and the promise of anytime, anywhere learning would motivate the learner. We were wrong.
The WIIFM Factor
From the learner, the message is clear—“I am motivated to learn when there’s something in it for me.” We’re all familiar with the expression, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” When it comes to learning, people thirst for very basic things: being able to apply the learning to their immediate job, being able to develop personally, being able to tie learning to career advancement or just getting through it because it’s required. We call these the WIIFM factors. WIIFM, or “What’s in it for me?” is a common expression used to get at the heart of motivational factors for individuals, groups or organizations. In the end, it’s the only thing that matters when it comes to crossing the chasm from motivation to performance.
Our role as learning professionals is to help organizations, managers and learners get to the WIIFM factors faster. Once you determine these, you can easily put together the right incentives to drive results faster.
The Role of Incentives
The distinction between an incentive and a motivation is often fuzzy. Simply put, motivation is what you want to tap into in order to drive behavior. Incentives are the external forces, actions or tools you use to get to those motives that will drive behavior. It’s important to match the appropriate incentive to the motivation and to recognize whether motivation is actually an issue in job performance. For example, if a learner does not need the training, very few incentives are going to work other than making the training mandatory.
Start at the Top
As Figure shows, the responsibility for creating the demand for learning starts at the very top of the organization. Setting the cultural mindset toward learning is the responsibility of the entire executive team, not just the chief learning officer. Unfortunately, the commitment that the organization demonstrates toward career development is often very different from any actual statements.
The areas where an organization’s executive staff has tremendous influence on the demand for learning include: allowing for employee development in the annual budget, tying employee development to managers’ paychecks and determining the general culture toward learning. More specifically, if you say learning is important, you must demonstrate it through actions like adequately funding training and development across the organization—not just the sales department. In addition, it shouldn’t mean that the entire training and development budget is dedicated to getting a learning management system (LMS) deployed throughout the organization. Forcefitting elearning solutions into an organization is not the solution. I’ve found very few companies that have successfully done away with the training and development department to replace it with the latest LMS and a library of courses. It just doesn’t work.
Tying training and development to managers’ compensation may be a bit controversial, but it fits with what works. What gets measured gets managed. When an organization ties development to compensation, it sends a very clear message.
Probably the most blatant show of commitment to learning is in the organization’s policy of when and where learning occurs. The next time you announce that you’re launching a program for anytime, anywhere learning, be careful of the message you’re sending out. Many learners have lived with elearning for more than five years now. To them this message means not now, not here. What is your organization’s policy toward taking elearning classes? How many development hours are mandatory? Have you eliminated classroom training altogether? Are employees allowed to learn at their desks without interruption? What performance support programs have you established to help the informal learning process, where 70 percent of learning actually occurs?
Managers as Active Participants
Managers play the most crucial role in motivating employees and the transfer of learning before, during and after training, particularly in the case of elearning. Ironically, managers often play the least active role in employee development. The most effective driver for learners to participate in a learning event is to make the learning mandatory. Making professional development a requirement sends a serious message. It raises the overall expectations and commitment of employees. However, this alone does not guarantee the transfer of learning.
According to another study by Elliott Masie, the two most important factors affecting the transfer of learning are setting goals on the application of learning and ensuring that someone cares that the learner took the training. Managers who continually ensure that employees are aware that learning opportunities, including elearning courses, will contribute to their personal development help to create the intrinsic motivation that learners need to develop themselves. This, in turn, helps to create an overall learning culture within the organization, which will further drive motivation. Table provides a snapshot of effective ways managers can contribute to creating the demand for learning.
Table : Methods for Managers to Contribute to Learning Demand
Supervisor or Manager Actions
· Understand the performance requirements.
· Work with the training department to determine the right interventions.
· Define who should receive training.
· Set objectives and expectations with the trainer.
· Become familiar with the training program content.
· Introduce employees to the training program.
· Communicate the need for training to the employee.
· Help the learner create an action plan for applying the learning.
· Support and encourage the learner.
· Participate in the learning event.
· Ensure attendance or uninterrupted access to the learning event.
· Rearrange the workload to accommodate time for training.
· Conduct postevent debriefing.
· Provide practice opportunities.
· Monitor action plans.
· Provide followup coaching and reinforcement.
· Evaluate performance.
· Recognize the learner.
Training and Development—Not Just Training
The role of learning and development is changing within organizations. The training department has taken on new skills and competencies, including learning to speak the language of business as well as instructional design. Increasing the relevancy of learning solutions is a significant motivator. Learners are more willing to take a course that they know they can immediately apply to make their jobs easier than to take a course that might eventually be of use. In addition, the availability of alternative learning interventions, including online courses, job aids and collaboration centers, truly empowers learners to use what works best for them.
To make this strategy work, learners must be prepared for the new learning expectation, especially if it involves technology. There’s no greater turnoff to training than not being able to view the course and not knowing the helpdesk number. There are different ways we can prepare learners. (See Table 2.)
Table 2: Preparing the Learner
Training Department or Trainer
· Work with managers to confirm performance gaps.
· Set expectations with supervisors/managers.
· Market the benefits of the training event or intervention.
· Use sound instructional design to develop the intervention.
· Communicate successes of pilot programs and testimonials from role models.
· Overcome fears of the technology by demonstrating the environment, providing technical assistance and peer support.
· Provide “Getting Started” aids.
· Send enrollment confirmations.
· Create a learning community that includes a mentor.
· Identify whom to call for technical help.
· Use adult learning principles.
· Provide workrelated exercises and appropriate job aids.
· Help learners develop action plans.
· Provide feedback and practice opportunities.
· Recognize the learner.
We’ve been so focused on educational technology for the past five years that it’s refreshing to step back and take a look at learning motivation. In order for organizational learning to happen, we must work not just on the technology and the content, but on the attitudes of managers to drive the culture of the organization to be one of support and encouragement for the learner. It’s time to renew our focus on what makes great organizations—great people who are skilled and ready to compete in this global market. It must never escape us that these are adults who are driven by the basic motivational principles—WIIFM. All of our actions must be directed toward these motivators, and everyone across the organization must be equipped with the right tools to get the job done.
Paula Moreira is vice president of enterprise learning strategies for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company. She is responsible for building custom integrated learning solutions that are tightly aligned with corporate business objectives for enterprise customers. Paula has 5 years of experience in adult learning and the training and certification industry. For more information, contact Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 2003 Table of Contents
- Cornerstone OnDemand Inc. announces acquisition of Saba in $1.395 billion deal
- What is the future of skills, roles and workforce development?
- Why companies must consider a strategic approach to employee education
- Mind over matter: leadership mindsets and actions to drive results
- Innovative Learning Group’s Lisa Toenniges shares her career insights